Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

High dose of oxygen enhances natural cancer treatment, researchers find

Date:
April 4, 2011
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
An environment of pure oxygen at three-and-a-half times normal air pressure adds significantly to the effectiveness of a natural compound already shown to kill cancerous cells, according to new research.

Annual wormwood, Artemisia annua L., yields the important antimalarial drug artemisinin. Researchers at UW and WSU are exploring its ability to treat cancer.
Credit: Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

An environment of pure oxygen at three-and-a-half times normal air pressure adds significantly to the effectiveness of a natural compound already shown to kill cancerous cells, researchers at the University of Washington and Washington State University recently reported in the journal Anticancer Research.

The compound artemisinin -- isolated from Artemisia annua L, commonly known as wormwood -- is a natural remedy widely used to treat malaria. In the mid-1990s UW researchers were the first to explore its ability to treat cancer.

In the new study, using artemisinin or high-pressure oxygen alone on a culture of human leukemia cells reduced the cancer cells' growth by 15 percent. Using them in combination reduced the cells' growth by 38 percent, a 50 percent increase in artemisinin's effectiveness.

"If you combine high-pressure oxygen with artemisinin you can get a much better curing effect," said author Henry Lai, a UW research professor of bioengineering. "We only measured up to 48 hours. Over longer time periods we expect the synergistic effects to be even more dramatic."

The history of artemisinin brings to mind an Indiana Jones story. In the early 1970s, Lai says, Chinese leader Mao Zedong issued an order to develop an anti-malarial treatment. At the same time, a farmer in central China discovered a 2,000-year-old tomb that contained three coffins. One coffin contained a silk scroll describing various prescriptions, including artemisinin to treat malaria. The Chinese followed the directions and thus rediscovered an ancient remedy.

Today, artemisinin is widely used in Asia and Africa for malaria treatment.

In the decades since, scientists have discovered artemisinin reacts with iron within a cell to form a free radical, a highly reactive charged particle that destroys the cell. Because the malaria parasite is high in iron, artemisinin targets malaria-infected cells.

Since rapidly dividing cancer cells also need iron to form new DNA, Lai theorized they would also make targets for artemisinin. Subsequent research showed this to be the case.

Lai and colleagues at the UW developed a variant several thousand times more potent than natural artemisinin, which was licensed in 2004 to a Chinese company.

"Artemisinin is a promising low-cost cancer treatment because it's specific, it's cheap and you don't have to inject it," Lai said. "It's 100 times more specific than traditional chemotherapy," he added. "In breast cancer, it's even better."

Lai says he's long hypothesized that high oxygen levels would enhance artemisinin's effects, because oxygen promotes the formation of free radicals. In 2010, he put the theory to the test in a hyperbaric chamber that co-author Raymond Quock, WSU professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences, has been using to study highly pressurized oxygen's ability to relieve pain.

Hyperbaric chambers, filled with oxygen at high pressure, help scuba divers who surface too quickly gradually readjust to normal oxygen levels. A photo of pop singer Jackson in the mid-80s sleeping in a portable hyperbaric chamber sparked rumors that he was trying to heal scars from plastic surgery, retain his youthful appearance or extend his lifespan. The photo turned out to be a publicity stunt, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved hyperbaric oxygen therapy for several ailments, including decompression sickness, carbon-monoxide poisoning, Lyme disease and slow-to-heal wounds.

In clinical practice, the artemisinin-hyperbaric study could lead to people or animals spending time in a hyperbaric chamber to enhance the artemisinin's effectiveness.

Other co-authors are Yusuke Ohgami, Catherine Elstad and Eunhee Chung of WSU and Donald Shirachi of the Chico Hyperbaric Center. The research was funded by the Washington State University College of Pharmacy and the Chico Hyperbaric Center.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. The original article was written by Hannah Hickey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yusuke Ohgami, Catherine A. Elstad, Eunhee Chung, Donald Y. Shirachi, Raymond M. Quock, Henry C. Lai. Effect of Hyperbaric Oxygen on the Anticancer Effect of Artemisinin on Molt-4 Human Leukemia Cells. Anticancer Research, 2010; 30: 4467-4470 [link]

Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "High dose of oxygen enhances natural cancer treatment, researchers find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404142813.htm>.
University of Washington. (2011, April 4). High dose of oxygen enhances natural cancer treatment, researchers find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404142813.htm
University of Washington. "High dose of oxygen enhances natural cancer treatment, researchers find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404142813.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A rare, well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth is going on sale at Summers Place Auctions hope the 11.5-foot tall, almost intact specimen will fetch between $245,000 to $409,000. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fox Bites Conn. Student And School Staffers In Rare Attack

Fox Bites Conn. Student And School Staffers In Rare Attack

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) A fox attacked a second-grade boy at a Connecticut elementary school Monday. It also attacked two school staff members and a woman and her dog. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Will Living Glue Be A Thing?

Will Living Glue Be A Thing?

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) Using proteins derived from mussels, engineers at MIT have made a supersticky underwater adhesive. They're now looking to make "living glue." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tiger Kills Man at India Zoo

Raw: Tiger Kills Man at India Zoo

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A white tiger killed a young man who climbed over a fence at the New Delhi zoo and jumped into the animal's enclosure on Tuesday, a spokesman said. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins