A new health breakthrough has found that combining high-pressure oxygen with the natural remedy “artemisinin” may provide a new avenue for killing cancer cells. Researchers have found that the combination could reduce the growth of cancer cells by 38%. And for those who live with cancer, this is a great dose of health news.
Artemisinin is a compound from wormwood and is widely used to treat malaria. In the mid-1990s, researchers began exploring its actions on cancer. A new study has found that an environment of pure oxygen at over three times the normal air pressure could significantly boost the effectiveness of artemisinin.
In the new study, using artemisinin or high-pressure oxygen alone on human leukemia cells reduced the cancer cells’ growth by 15%. But using them in combination further dropped that growth to 38%. That is more than a
50% increase in artemisinin’s effectiveness. This is clearly a much better curing effect, and it was seen in just 48 hours. Over longer periods of time, the researchers say the results could be more dramatic.
Artemisinin is believed to have a history of being used in medicine that dates back thousands of years to ancient China. Its modern use is in malaria treatment in Asia and Africa. But in the past few decades, scientists have
discovered that artemisinin reacts with iron within a cell to form a free radical. This highly reactive particle can act to destroy the cell. This is normally a bad thing for us, but in the case of cancer cells, it is obviously quite positive.
Rapidly dividing cancer cells also need iron to form new DNA. The researchers believed they would also make targets for artemisinin. This natural remedy is an inexpensive and potentially quite promising cancer treatment. According to the researchers, artemisinin is 100 times more specific in its treatment than chemotherapy, which essentially carpet-bombs an entire area of the body in hopes that it kills the cancer cells there.
The idea with oxygen is that high levels would boost artemisinin because oxygen promotes the formation of free radicals. In 2010, a researcher placed a Petri dish with human cancer cells in a high-pressure oxygen chamber for two days. That led to the new results, which may lead to further looks at how hyperbaric chambers could make cancer treatments more effective.