The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Oxygen Therapy: In the Absence of Evidence


Since Mark and I published, Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, I have been getting a surprising number of questions about the use of oxygen therapy as a vigorous anti-cancer technology. Based on all the inquiries one would think there must be evidence of a widespread belief that oxygen therapy acts to retard or even halt the spread of prostate cancer.

I regret to say that, as of this writing, that is almost entirely untrue, or at best, unproven, except in one situation: Hyperbaric treatment is used to accelerate healing of tissue damaged by radiation therapy. Available scientific evidence does not support claims that increasing oxygen levels in the body will kill or even inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

How is Oxygen Therapy Promoted for Use?
Different varieties of oxygen therapy are effective for treating multiple conditions, including carbon monoxide poisoning, certain kinds of wounds, injuries and skin infections, delayed radiation injury and certain bone and brain infections. However, the FDA sent a warning letter to at least one manufacturer about promoting  oxygen treatment for unproven uses such as certain types of cancer, asthma, emphysema, AIDS, arthritis, heart and vascular diseases, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Proponents of oxygen therapy claim that cancer cells thrive in low-oxygen environments. They believe adding oxygen to the body creates an oxygen-rich condition in which cancer cells cannot survive. They also claim that a high oxygen environment increases the efficiency of all cells in the body, increases energy, promotes the production of antioxidants and enhances immune system function.

Other oxygen aficionados believe that immersing an affected body part can cause tumors to separate from the body so that a cancer can be “wiped away.” There is little evidence that this is the case. And yet, a considerable number of men are committing to a variety of oxygen treatments. And that concerns me. So I will give you a brief survey of the oxygen therapy field.

What is the History of Oxygen Therapy?
The history of putting oxygen-releasing substances into the body follows several tracks. Interest in ozone dates back to the mid-1800s in Germany, where it was claimed to purify blood. During World War I, doctors used ozone to treat wounds, trench foot and the effects of poison gas. In the 1920s, ozone and hydrogen peroxide were used experimentally to treat the flu.

One of the earliest accounts of the medical use of hydrogen peroxide was a short article by I.N. Love, MD, in 1888 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Love recommended using hydrogen peroxide as “a stimulator of healing." Unlike most current articles, the 1888 report in that prestigious journal did not include details that would be required today, such as whether patients treated with peroxide lived longer than those receiving placebo, or whether there was any solid evidence that peroxide caused cancers to shrink or disappear.

During the 1930s, Otto Warburg, MD, a winner of the Nobel Prize in 1931 for his research on respiratory enzymes, discovered that cancer cells have a lower chemical respiration rate than normal cells. He reasoned that cancer cells thrived in a low-oxygen environment and that increased oxygen levels might therefore harm and even kill them. Many of the beliefs held by oxygen therapy proponents are based on Dr. Warburg’s theories concerning cancer, even though technical advances have since offered a great deal more information about how cancer cells really use oxygen.

Negative Reviews
According to Dr. Stephen Barrett, who writes about health fraud, reviewed a researcher from the Dominican Republic who claimed that his clinic used ozone gas to cure thirteen people with cancer. An investigative news group later learned that two of the patients died of cancer, three could not be found, two refused to be interviewed, three were alive but still had cancer, and in three cases it was not clear if the patients actually ever had cancer.

Furthermore, a 1993 review article found some evidence that too much oxygen in the body’s tissues may damage genetic material and promote abnormal growth. And a 2001 review of ozone therapy concluded that "… few rigorous clinical trials of the treatment exist. Those that have been published demonstrated no evidence of effect . . . Until more positive evidence emerges, ozone therapy should be avoided."

Although oxygen therapy has its benefits, it is the subject of a great deal of controversy, and I could not find credible evidence that it either halts or slows cancer growth. Nor does depriving tumors of oxygen stimulate their growth.  Nevertheless, oxygen therapies continue to be widely promoted as alternative treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses, and are offered at clinics in Mexico, the United States and Europe. These clinics are attracting men with prostate cancer, men hopeful that the therapies provided will benefit them.

The lack of randomized clinical trials makes it difficult to judge the value of oxygen therapy for many of its claims, and we need to expand our knowledge on the effect and mechanisms behind tumor oxygenation.  Meanwhile it continues to be big business south of the border.

But let the buyer beware.

No comments: