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Sunday, January 22, 2012

An oxygen treatment normally given to injured footballers could help relieve disruptive side-effects that pelvic cancer

Posted 24th August 2009

Medical News Today - An oxygen treatment normally given to injured footballers could help relieve disruptive side-effects that pelvic cancer patients often suffer. The first patient in The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 's new trial of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is being treated today at a Greater London hospital.

The trial aims to help patients who have received radiotherapy treatment for pelvic cancer - including cancer of the cervix, ovary, prostate, testis, rectum, bladder and uterus - and are left with unpleasant side-effects including diarrhoea, stomach cramps and frequent bowel movements.

Most patients return to normal within a few weeks of stopping radiotherapy treatment, but about 30 per cent develop long-term bowel problems that can interfere with their daily activities and impact on their quality of life. At the moment there is no cure for these symptoms and, as more people are treated for pelvic cancer, an increasing number of people are affected.

A recent small study found evidence that hyperbaric (high pressure) oxygen therapy may be able to improve these side-effects. Now, the ICR and The Royal Marsden are conducting a large Phase III trial to properly test whether this therapy works in patients who have been suffering side-effects for at least a year.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is commonly used to treat scuba divers who suffer the bends (decompression sickness), and it is also given to elite footballers after an injury to help them heal more quickly. The therapy involves the patient sitting in a sealed chamber and breathing 100 per cent oxygen (with periodic breaks) while the air pressure around them is gradually increased. The treatment lasts about 30 minutes and after it finishes the air in the chamber is slowly returned to normal pressure before the patient leaves.

The HOT II trial will take place at specialist centres in Cardiff, Chichester, Great Yarmouth, Hull, Plymouth, North London and the Wirral, co-ordinated by the ICR and The Royal Marsden.

A 71-year-old woman will today become the first patient treated under the new trial, by Hyperbaric Consultant Dr Mihaela Ignatescu at a chamber at Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust in Leytonstone.

The patient, who was given radiotherapy in 1996 after cancer spread from her ovaries to her colon and still suffers chronic stomach cramps and violent uncontrollable diarrhoea, says: "I was delighted to be accepted into this trial to try and improve my quality of life. I consider myself very privileged to take part in the trial and in this way help in the research to hopefully find a cure for pelvic radiation side-effects in the near future."

The trial is randomised and double-blind, which means the patients will be randomly split into two groups and two-thirds will receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy while one-third will be given normal air. Neither patients nor doctors will know to which group they have been assigned. The treatment is given five days a week for eight weeks.

Professor of Clinical Oncology at the ICR and The Royal Marsden John Yarnold, who is jointly leading the trial with Royal Marsden Consultant Gastroenterologist in Pelvic Radiation Disease Dr Jervoise Andreyev, says: "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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