In this article, Dr. Boutros explains how hypoxia (low levels of molecular oxygen) in tumors can accel the spread of aggressive cancer cells. Normally our blood vessels are well organized and able to transport nutrients including oxygen to all cells. In tumors, this is disorganized and has sluggish flow. Around half of all solid tumors end up with low oxygen levels.
Previously testing the oxygen levels in tumors was extremely invasive and difficult. To combat this, Bhandari and his team created a new method for testing the oxygen levels in tumors.“We used several mRNA signatures to computationally quantify tumor oxygen levels with existing patient data. We then used this hypoxia information and looked broadly at lots of different genomic features of tumors and found some really interesting links in several cancers,” wrote Bhandari. “We then dug deeper into prostate cancer where we have really good long term data for how patients respond to treatments and we looked further into interactions between hypoxia, changes in the DNA and also how tumors change over time.” Dr. Paul Boutros stated that hypoxia and its relevance to cancer growth is still not well understood, but that this research is a significant step.