Show Details

Oxygen Cancer Therapy

March 10, 2015

Oxygen may be the key to helping our immune systems fight cancer.




Tumors residing in a low-oxygen environment use adenosine to block immune cells. (C. Bickel/Science Translational Medicine)

Adding oxygen to cancer therapy. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Tumors have a two-punch combination to stop the body’s killer T-cells from attacking them: they produce adenosine, a substance that slows down the killer cells, and they create a low-oxygen environment, where the T-cells can’t function. In the journal Science Translational Medicine, Michail Sitkovsky at Northeastern University describes how a combination of immunotherapy—to disable the adenosine—and oxygen give the killer cells what they need to destroy the cancer.

SITKOVSKY (Northeastern University):

Not only T-cells stop avoiding entering this area of tumors, but also when they enter they are aggressive, they are not sleepy, they are not sluggish.


He says just breathing oxygen by itself won’t work, but in lab mice, immunotherapy and oxygen together shrank tumors—a result Sitkovsky hopes will be repeated in human trials. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.