ATS 2011, DENVER A new study links the intermittent interruption of breathing that occurs in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to enhanced proliferation of melanoma cancer cells and increased tumor growth in mice, according to researchers in Spain. The study also found tumor cells of OSA mouse models tended to contain more dead cells, indicating a more aggressive type of cancer.
The results of the study will be presented at the ATS 2011 International Conference in Denver.
"To our knowledge, this study is the first one providing experimental evidence that a high-rate intermittent lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, mimicking the one experienced by OSA patients enhances tumor growth," said Ramon Farre, PhD, professor of physiology at the University of Barcelona School of Medicine Biophysics and Bioengineering Lab.
Recurrent hypoxia is one of the hallmarks of OSA, which may affect around 5 percent of Americans. OSA has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, as well as daytime sleepiness and a lower quality of life.
"Although earlier studies in animals have shown that lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, plays an important role in regulating the various stages of tumor formation and progression, the results obtained from human studies including large groups of OSA patients are not easy to interpret because there are other contributing conditions, most notably obesity," Dr. Farre added. "This well-controlled mouse model study allowed us to ensure that the only variable under study was intermittent hypoxia."
In this study, mice injected with melanoma tumor cells were divided among two groups. In the first group, mice were exposed to intermittent hypoxia, where oxygen was restricted for 20-second periods at a rate of 60 periods per hour for six hours per day, and normal oxygen levels for the remainder of the day. In the second group, mice received normal levels of oxygen
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American Thoracic Society