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Oxygen And Cancer - How Do They Fit Together?
An educational symposium on improving quality of life and treatment of cancer patients

    Seville (ots-PRNewswire) - The presence of oxygen is essential for the life of most organisms including the human being, as it is required to metabolise sugar into energy. Lack of oxygen can lead to the development of organic dysfunctions resulting in severe diseases, seen in patients suffering cardiac problems. Another disease where insufficient oxygen supply is common but receives less recognition is cancer. An exciting educational symposium is now taking place in Seville, Spain, from September 7-9, 2000. More than 800 world-renowned oncologists will attend to discuss the existing links between oxygen and cancer and give a comprehensive overview. Due to the importance of the topic, this symposium has been accredited for Continuing Medical Education by the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO).

    One of the main topics of the symposium is the fatigue syndrome resulting from tumor- or therapy-induced anemia. Nearly 80 percent of all cancer patients suffer from fatigue symptoms which can be physical (tiredness, lack of energy, weakness) but also psychological (depression, cognitive dysfunctions) 1,2. "It is possible to help many of these patients by increasing their hemoglobin levels via blood transfusions or by using hematopoietic growth factors like erythropoietin", says Dr. Peter Harper, Consultant Physician and Medical Oncologist, Guy's & St. Thomas' Hospital, London, and co-chairman of the symposium, "but in contrast to the patients, many physicians don't realise fatigue as a real problem. It is therefore imperative to make doctors more aware of what fatigue means to their patients."

    The fatigue problem becomes even more prominent with the use of dose-intensified chemotherapy regimes which improve therapy results, but can also lead to severe damage of erythrocyte production. As shown in several studies, this problem can be successfully circumvented by the preventional application of erythropoietin 3,4. The use of this substance was therefore integrated into the design of a number of new clinical trials, for example on lung and breast cancer. Another reason for correcting anemia with erythropoietin is the possible improvement of therapy outcome by increasing the oxygenation status of tumours via improved hemoglobin levels. It has been known for many years that hypoxic tumour areas are more resistant against radiation compared to well oxygenated parts of the tumour 5. Additionally, it could be shown for some types of tumours (e.g. head and neck tumours, cervical cancer) that low hemoglobin levels are a negative prognostic factor 6,7. "The improvement of cancer therapy by supplying the tumour with more oxygen is an interesting new approach in oncology", says Prof. Mario Dicato, oncologist, Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg, and co-chairman of the symposium. "The first preliminary results are encouraging, but there is still a lot of work to be done."

    The symposium is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Ortho Biotech and Janssen-Cilag.


    1. Vogelzang NJ et al. Semin Hematol 1997; 34: 4-12

    2. Curt GA The Oncologist 2000; 5: 9-12.

    3. Del Mastro L et al. J Clin Oncol 1997; 15, 2715-2721

    4. Dunphy FR et al. Cancer 1999; 86: 1362-1367

    5. Grau C, Overgaard J, in Molls M, Vaupel P, Blood Perfusion and Microenvironment of Human Tumors. Springer Verlag 1998

    6. Glaser C et al. Proc of ASCO 1999; Vol. 18, Abstract 1543

    7. Grogan M et al: The importance of hemoglobin levels during radiotherapy for carcinoma of the cervix. Cancer 1999; 86: 1528-36

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