Low Oxygen in Cells might spur Cancer Growth

Breast Cancer in the Pleural Fluid credit: National Cancer Insitute Dr. Lance Liotta Laboratory - PD

(Best Syndication News) - The tumor growth rate of certain cancers could be increased with low oxygen levels, according to recent study from researchers at the University of Georgia. The study was published in the early online edition of the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology.

The current consensus of most researchers is that genetic mutation is the main cause of cancer growth. This study suggests another cause: low oxygen levels (hypoxia) in cells. Oxygen may play a role in unruly tumor growth in certain types of cancer. Prior research showed that low oxygen levels were a contributing factor to cause cancer to advance, however, they did not point to it as the main cause.

The researchers observed samples of messenger RNA data (transcriptomic data) from seven different types of cancer; breast, kidney, liver, lung, ovary, pancreatic and stomach. The samples came from the Stanford Microarray Database, which is a publicly available database. The evidence suggests that long-term lack of oxygen being delivered to the cells may have been the main source for causing the cancer tumor growth.

Researcher, Ying Xu, Regents-Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and professor of bioinformatics and computational biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, explained that the study involved looking at the HIF1A as a biomarker to determine the amount of molecular oxygen found in the cell.

"When a cancer cell gets more food, it grows; this makes the tumor biomass bigger and even more hypoxic. In turn, the energy-conversion efficiency goes further down, making the cells even more hungry and triggering the cells to get more food from blood circulation, creating a vicious cycle. This could be a key driver of cancer," Xu said.

Xu said that the oxygen-deprived cells could explain the reason drugs become resistant to treating cancer often seen as early as three to six months. More experimental cancer research would be needed to test the new cancer-growth model outlined in this study. If the model holds true, then researchers may start to focus on ways to increase oxygen levels in the cells.

By: Marsha Quinn
Health Reporter

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