Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for malignancy: a review

World J Surg. 2006 Dec;30(12):2112-31. doi: 10.1007/s00268-006-0190-6.


One unique feature of tumors is the presence of hypoxic regions, which occur predominantly at the tumor center. Hypoxia has a major impact on various aspects of tumor cell function and proliferation. Hypoxic tumor cells are relatively insensitive to conventional therapy owing to cellular adaptations effected by the hypoxic microenvironment. Recent efforts have aimed to alter the hypoxic state and to reverse these adaptations to improve treatment outcome. One way to increase tumor oxygen tensions is by hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy. HBO therapy can influence the tumor microenvironment at several levels. It can alter tumor hypoxia, a potent stimulus that drives angiogenesis. Hyperoxia as a result of HBO also produces reactive oxygen species, which can damage tumors by inducing excessive oxidative stress. This review outlines the importance of oxygen to tumors and the mechanisms by which tumors survive under hypoxic conditions. It also presents data from both experimental and clinical studies for the effect of HBO on malignancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Reactive Oxygen Species