We all feel a chill down the spine when we hear the term cancer. It is a deadly disease in most types of cancers but could be completely cured in some instances. However, it carries significant morbidity to the patient. There is so much mental stress for patients. Sientists invest much time to research on discovering new and effective therapies to combat various types of cancers.
Molecular hydrogen is a promising therapy that is emerging to revolutionize cancer therapy.
What is cancer?
Cancer occurs when cells in the body starts to proliferate without control. There is increased blood supply to these rapidly dividing cells. That’s why new blood vessels are formed, this is called angiogenesis.
When cancer cells start to detach from their site of origin and spread to other tissues, it is called cancer metastasis. Mostly it occurs in last stages of cancer.
There are different types of cancers depending on the tissue of origin such as breast cancer, colonic cancer, lung cancer, bone cancer etc. These are further divided according to the cell type such as squamous carcinoma and adenocarcinoma and others.
Various causes lead to the development of cancer. Some may be due to genetics as seen in breast cancer, some may be environmental, radiation, viral or bacterial caused and sometimes no cause can be found.
Hydrogen for cancer therapy
Most cancer drugs are aimed at killing cancer cells through various methods. But these drugs have many side effects and they can kill healthy cells as well. Due to this, many patients discontinue their treatment and some may even opt not to undergo chemotherapy. There is a strong need for effective and also cost effective therapy without any side effects. Let’s see how hydrogen came into the picture.
Scientists discovered the effects of hydrogen on cancer treatment as far back as 1975, before hydrogen gained recognition as a therapeutic gas (which occurred in 2007).
In this original research from the 70s, hairless albino mice with squamous cell carcinoma of the skin were exposed to a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen for two weeks. The scientists found that the skin cancer regressed markedly and they suggested the possible use of hyperbaric hydrogen therapy for treatment also of other types of cancer.
However, this research went unnoticed for several decades until in 2007; a Japanese scientist discovered anti-oxidative properties of hydrogen and suggested its use as a therapeutic gas. Since then, there have been hundreds of research studies on this amazing gas which lead to the discovery of new properties of hydrogen such as anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic and anti-allergic properties.
How does hydrogen causes anti-tumour effects?
According to Chen Y et al., hydrogen has anti-tumour properties. This is believed to be due to its anti-oxidative effect, it means free radicals are neutralized. These oxygen free radicals are considered to be a cause of diseases in the human body. The tumour cells release these free radicals and sometimes tumours need those free radicals as signalling molecules.
What is the evidence that hydrogen can treat cancer?
Scientists either made a cell culture containing cancer cells or use mice models to test the effectiveness of hydrogen on cancer therapy.
In a study done on human tongue cancers cells, the scientists discovered that hydrogen dissolved water was able to selectively inhibit the growth of this cancer cells. It also resulted in reduced levels of free radicals. Hydrogen is considered a novel treatment for human tongue cancers.
Not only that, hydrogen has also being used for treating colon cancer cell lines. The effect was dose dependent with higher concentrations of hydrogen being the most effective.
In one study, hydrogen was used to test different cancer types, for instance human lung adeno carcinoma, uterine and cervix cancer. There is evidence that hydrogen can stop metastasis to improve survival.
Hydrogen rich saline has been given to mice which had radiation induced thymic lymphomas. The results indicated that hydrogen therapy could slow down the cancer growth as well as increase the latency period.
It was discovered that the active ingredient in electrolyzed reduced water is hydrogen. There have been several researches on its effectiveness.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a signal molecule which plays an important role in tumour angiogenesis. The cells are exposed to a higher oxidative stress and when electrolyzed reduced water was introduced, the production of VEGF decreased. It is believed to occur by affecting the genes. By reducing angiogenesis, tumour growth can be delayed.
When this water is introduced to leukemia cells, it resulted in apoptosis or death of these cells. The effect is mediated by the mitochondria. Since hydrogen is a small gas which can diffuse to any place, it can reach the mitochondria and exert its effects.
Hydrogen as a therapy to alleviate side effects of chemotherapy
Hydrogen can not only affect the cancer cells directly, it should also reduce the adverse effects that can occur due to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Ionizing radiation often causes damage to normal tissues during cancer radiotherapy, especially lung, heart and other organs. These radiotoxic effects are mainly due to production of hydroxide radicals. In several studies hydrogen has been used to protect against radiation damage in a variety of animal tissues, such as skin, intestine, lung, heart, brain, bone marrow, testis and other tissues. Bone marrow the most be damaged by radiation.
It has been found a radioprotective effect of hydrogen in such human cells. But hydrogen did not affect the anti-tumour effects of radiation.
Is hydrogen safe?
Hydrogen is considered safe if consumed within recommended doses.
Since it is relatively cost effective therapy hydrogen can be used in cancer to directly control the cancer cells as well as reduce the side effects seen with cancer treatment.
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