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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Oxygen used in cancer trials

25th August 2009

The Institute of Cancer Research is trialling a method traditionally used to treat divers with decompression sickness in order to help cancer patients recover from radiotherapy.


The treatment - known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy - is given to patients who breathe pure oxygen while sitting in a pressure-controlled room.

Hyperbaric therapy is also given to people with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, burns, and helps injured athletes to heal faster.

The Institute intends to trial the treatment at special centres in London, Great Yarmouth, Plymouth, Chichester, Cardiff, Hull and the Wirral.

Scientists are hoping that the oxygen therapy will help with side-effects caused by radiotherapy given to cancer located in the pelvis. These include ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, bowel, bladder and womb cancer.

While many patients do not suffer ongoing problems after they finish treatment, around 30% have long-term side-effects such as diarrhoea and stomach cramping.

The trials involve 75 patients and are headed by Professor John Yarnold, from the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital.

He said: "It's very difficult for patients who have already suffered through cancer and radiotherapy treatment to be left with these debilitating side-effects."

"We hope to answer once and for all whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy will improve their quality of life."

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