Hyperbolic Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbolic Oxygen Therapy HBO or HBOT (HBO2T)has its fans as an aid in Cancer Treatment. The
argument runs that using a Hyperbaric Chamber (which is designed to
increase blood oxygen levels and is proven to work in this way with a
number of illnesses), will overcome one of the main influences of
cancer: Namely, that cancer exists in a low-oxygen environment and
plentiful oxygen can kill it off. HBOT has also been shown to
significantly reduce inflammation in the body and this can be a
precursor to cancer. Thus it has the potential to be a simple
´alternative cancer treatment´.
But. And it is a big BUT. Is there
any evidence that this theory really could be an alternative cancer
´cure´, or even a very promising complementary cancer therapy?
The bottom line is that
1. Research shows it is already used to good effect when used with radiotherapy where it does seem to reduce tissue damage and side-effects.
2. Some cancer centers use it to improve the uptake of chemotherapy drugs.
3 On its own, in research with mice
models, Hyperbolic Oxygen did not seem to offer any benefit in the
fight against cancer. However, when used in combination with a Ketogenic Diet, albeit in mice models, the benefits were significant.
Here we look at the use of Hyperbolic Oxygen and cancer in a little more detail.
What is Hyperbolic Oxygen Treatment?
HBOT chambers to treat deep sea divers suffering from decompression
sickness (the bends) were first developed by the military in the 1940s.
Pilots who climb or lose altitude too quickly and miners who surface too
quickly may also experience this condition.
Decompression sickness involves a dangerous loss of oxygen in the blood stream and can be both painful and fatal.
By the 1960s it was realized that HBOT might be appropriate to other
conditions and illnesses and it was used for example for carbon monoxide
poisoning cases and other oxygen-depletion scenarios such as gangrene.
It was thus shown to increase, not just blood oxygen levels, but tissue
oxygen and improve tissue healing.
There are now
many other illnesses and conditions for which the idea of increasing
cellular oxygen load is accepted as having significant benefits - for
example ulceration (caused by radiotherapy, diabetes and so on), brain
damage after accidents and plastic surgery. And, in some
In 1931 Otto Warburg won a Nobel prize for explaining that oxygen was
the enemy of the cancer cell. It kills them. Indeed cancer cells thrive
in an environment where oxygen is depleted. The abnormal blood supplies
created by tumours feature ´hypoxic pockets´ - where there is no oxygen
and lower pH (a more acidic environment). These hypoxic pockets seem to
protect the cancer cell from the outside world, leaving it alone to
burn glucose (glycolysis) and flourish. The pH inside such tumors is
highly acidic - around 6.2 pH.
Since that time many alternative cancer experts have pondered over
ways of delivering oxygen to cancerous tissue in the hope of killing the
cancer cells and restoring the tissue to a normal state. In our
interview with Dr Contreras of The Oasis of Hope Hospital in Mexico,
he told us how they were using a form of dialysis to deliver ozone to
the tissues. (Note - while oxygen is a double atom molecule O2, ozone is
a triple atom molecule O3). He claimed that the system was in early
stages of development, but did seem to extend the lives of cancer
patients already tested, by months if not by years. Today there are well
respected centers operating inside the USA that use ozone to treat
cancer, as a part of their offering.
Oxygen is a drug!
Believe it or not but oxygen has officially been declared a drug by
the FDA in America who have stated that it must not be prescribed to
treat anything other than those illnesses approved and for which there
is evidence. For example, decompression sickness, anemia, gangrene,
skin grafts, soft tissue damage, burns, abscess in the head or brain,
osteomyelitis. In effect, they have banned the use of Hyperbolic Oxygen
to treat cancer. But then in 2011, they have taken steps to ban the use
of intravenous vitamin C compounds, which can also increase cell oxygen
levels! They don´t seem to want you oxygenating your cancer cells at
all. Will eating glutathione-rich vegetables be banned next?
HBO as a Complementary Therapy for cancer
HBOT is currently used with cancer patients to reduce inflammation in
bones and adjacent tissues where radiotherapy may cause damage - it
seems to have an ability to reduce secondary radiation damage after radiotherapy.
For example, one research study (HYPON) showed that the use of HBOT
could reduce jaw bone damage in patients given radiotherapy for head and
neck cancers. Radiotherapy damages surrounding tissues, not just cancer
cells. Other uses include the regeneration of blood vessels - blood
supplies may be restricted to tissues and bones by the harmful action of
radiotherapy; and oxygen treatment can help significantly. It has also
been shown to help reduce secondary problems with both pelvic and bowel
cancer. These effects are acknowledged in the UK and have been added to
the repertoire of orthodox medicine. At the end of this article you will
see that the Royal Marsden were asking for recruits to their phase III clinical trial - it was for people who experienced side effects after radiation for pelvic cancer.
There is also evidence that HBOT may help people with lymphoedema
following breast cancer and lymph nodule surgery. Quite simply, oxygen
therapy aids healing and patients in research talk of reduced swelling
and less pain, with a softening of the damaged tissue.
What happens during HBOT?
People can be treated individually or in groups depending upon the
size of the chamber. Inside, the pure oxygen is administered at
pressures 1.5 to 3 times normal atmospheric pressure. Treatment time is
usually about 90 minutes and only cotton clothing may be worn. There are
treatment centers throughout the UK you might contact the British Hyperbolic Association.
Side effects may include
claustrophobia, fatigue, headaches, ear problems and nausea. It is
occasionally possible the myopia (short sightedness) occurs, and people
with lung disease may experience a collapsed lung, heart patients may
have symptoms worsened. It is not recommended for pregnant women.
Cancer patients taking drugs such as doxorubicin, cisplatin or bleomycin are advised not to use HBOT.
HBO as an alternative cancer treatment
Oxygen therapy, ozone therapy, the use of hydrogen peroxide and even
the simple ingestion of more foods containing glutathione all have one
theoretical aim: To deliver more oxygen to the mitochondria inside the
cell. It is the mithochondria (the power stations) that cease their
normal job of burning carbohydrate in the presence of oxygen to produce
energy (the Krebs Cycle) in cancer cells. Instead cancer cells produce
energy by burning glucose in the absence of oxygen in the main
cytoplasm. This ´glycolysis´ typifies a cancer cell.
While the theory is great, the research to date has often been
anecdotal and patchy. The primary problem, as Contreras told me, is the
delivery system. Increasing the oxygen levels in the blood does not
necessarily increase them in the cells.
Research published in June 2013 by researchers from the University of
South Florida and the Boston College using mice models proved very
In mice with metastatic cancer and using a Ketogenic Diet and
Hyperbaric Oxygen in combination and alone, with control groups, the
researchers reported that a "Ketogenic Diet alone significantly
decreased blood glucose, slowed tumour progression and increased mean
survival time by 56.7% in mice with systemic metastatic cancer. While Hyperbolic Oxygen Therapy alone did not influence cancer progression,
combining the Ketogenic
Diet with Hyperbaric Oxygen elicited a significant decrease in blood
glucose, tumor growth rate and a 77% increase in mean survival times compared to the controls.
So let us be very clear. These highly qualified researchers (Angela M
Poff, Csilla Ari, Thomas N Seyfried and Dr Dominic P D´Agostino)
conclude that on its own Hyperbolic Oxygen had no effect on the
oxygen-devoid, acidic hypoxic pockets nor on the glucose burning cancer
cells. But in combination with a Ketogenic Diet, where the body is starved of glucose, Hyperbolic Oxygen had a significant complementary effect, and it increased survival times.
Further studies are patchy at best. There are studies involving mice who have been induced with cancer to give them oral mucosal carcinoma.
Hyperbaric oxygen reduced the level of cancer, preventing some mice
developing the disease. However, in some cases where the mice already
had the disease, oxygen seemed to make matters worse. (The effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on oral mucosa carcinoma; Terry McMillan, Karen Callhoun et al).
Patients with brain tumors
may well derive benefit. Treatment using HBO with brain damage has
definitely shown promise, and this has now been extended to brain
cancer. In a 2006 Clinical Trial in Japan, brain tumor patients
receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy experienced longer survival
times and reduced side effects when using HBO. (Ogawa et al).
In 2007 a second clinical trial showed extended survival times with
reduced side effects using HBO with just radiotherapy in glaucoma patients
(Kohshi et al). Now (July
2011) researchers at the Long Island Brain Tumor Center are try to
replicate those studies again in a Phase II clinical trial with gliomas.
(Ed: How many do you need?)
Researchers at the University of Washington and Washington State University have shown that the herb artimesia vulgaris,
or Wormwood, kills a cancer cells in conjunction with Hyperbolic Oxygen
in early research in the 1990s. They describe wormwood as an important
Wormwood acts by reacting with iron in a cell to form a free-radical
which kills the cell. Malaria parasites and cancer cells are high in
New research in 2011 on a culture of leukemia cells
has shown that wormwood acts to kill about 15 per cent of cancer cells
in the laboratory experiments. And they found almost the same 15 per
cent figure when using HBO. Combining the two treatments say a 38 per
cent reduction in cancer growth. Professor of bioengineering, Henry Lai
said We only measured up to 48 hours. Over longer time periods we expect the synergistic effects to be even more dramatic.
Importantly, there are a number of cancer centers in Germany that
currently use Hyperbolic Oxygen Therapy to treat cancer, sometimes as a
single stand-alone therapy, but more usually in conjunction with other
treatments, including either complementary therapies or chemotherapy.
And, they claim excellent results.
Trawling the web I found quotes such as:
I utilize mild Hyperbolic Therapy (mHBT) in all stages of
cancer; upon detection, as well as pre and post surgery, pre, post and
during chemo and radiation. In fact if chemotherapy is used in
conjunction with mHBT, the chemotherapy dose must be reduced. The mHBT
will potentate any primary cancer treatment. mHBT is the best cancer
prevention and cancer remission therapy out there, bar none. US Doctor, Bergeron, Rhett, MD
By increasing the oxygen environment to the cancer cells, it
makes them less virulent and in many instances destroys them. (Yutsis, Pavel I., MD, Oxygen to the Rescue)
So is it an alternative cancer treatment?
Consistently, in my research on HBOT, I have found articles talking excellent theory, but little hard research evidence in practice until I
came to the studies involving a Ketogenic Diet as well. This is not to
say I am a doubter, I am not. But it is one thing telling me that oxygen
kills cancer cells in my Oxford University lectures, and another thing
Maybe the oxygen increase is not enough to stop glycolysis - the
burning of glucose by cancer cells - on its own. Maybe it has to have a
glucose restricted diet working in combination with it.
Maybe hitherto the delivery systems for oxygen were poor. Maybe Hyperbolic Oxygen is that delivery system - the mice in the Ketogenic
Diet plus Hyperbolic Oxygen research were given 3 sessions of HBOT a
week, each for 90 minutes.
I acknowledge that there are centers in Germany claiming excellent
results, there are cancer experts in the USA lauding its potential. The
Seyfried/ D´Agostino study concluded that ´A
Ketogenic Diet and HBOT produce significant anti-cancer effects when
combined in a natural model of systemic metastatic cancer. Our evidence
that these therapies should be investigated as potential non-toxic
treatments or adjutant therapies (complementary therapies)´.
And research shows Hyperbolic Oxygen Therapy clearly provides real
benefits as a complementary therapy when used with radiotherapy and
lymphoedema to reduce side-effects and promote healing.
The great thing is that we know Hyperbolic oxygen is a healing
treatment - there is already significant evidence for a variety of
illnesses. And we know that it is an ´all-over-body treatment, just as
cancer is an all-over body´ disease. It already has staunch supporters
in countries like Germany and Japan.
Cancer patients should keep an open mind on Hyperbolic Oxygen Therapy and watch for research developments.
Interestingly, Professor John Yarnold´s office at the Royal Marsden
read this article and asked me to tell all readers that they are
recruiting people for a Clinical Trial, if you would like to
The trial is a randomized, double-blind, controlled Phase III trial
of Hyperbolic Oxygen in patients suffering long-term adverse effects
after radiotherapy for pelvic cancer. That trial is now taking place and entry is closed.
How do you find a Hyperbolic Oxygen Center today?
Actually access to Hyperbolic Oxygen Treatment in the UK is easier
than you think. ‘Oxygen treatment’ is actually very accessible at low
cost right across Britain - you don’t have to wait for your oncology
unit to get a Hyperbolic Oxygen chamber!
Scattered across the UK are 60 Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centers, all
independent charities, which offer therapies and support to people with
MS. Nearly all provide access to oxygen treatment (also known as oxygen
therapy) which has been shown to significantly alleviate the symptoms of
MS and improve quality of life. Most centers are also able to treat
people with other conditions, depending on available capacity.
The centers ask for donations, or set their own charges for treatment
which are relatively inexpensive due to their charitable status.
Treatments are delivered in multi-place barochambers (low-pressure
chambers), which are pressurized to between 0.5 – 2 times normal
atmospheric pressure, and a session lasts approximately 90 minutes.
Referrals are not required, so any person can go to their local center
and access the treatment. Over 2½ million sessions have been delivered
since the centers were founded 30 years ago, to a standard approved by
the Department of Health.
According to MS experts,
and cancer, other conditions already treated in the centers include leg
ulcers, strokes, COPD, cerebral palsy, autism, wounds, migraines, sports
injuries, broken bones – the list is nearly endless. Any condition
which results in inflammation in the body can benefit from oxygen
treatment. We all breathe oxygen all the time, but when we are ill we
can use a chamber to increase the dosage of oxygen, delivering more to
damaged areas in the body and stimulating the healing process. Oxygen is
our body’s antibiotic; it controls over 8000 genes, and a course of 20
sessions increases our own stem cells eightfold´.