A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has revealed that sleep apnea could promote the growth of lung cancer in younger individuals.
Researchers from IBEC, the University of Barcelona and Hospital Clinic show that, contrary to expectation, age could be a protective factor against the rapid tumor development induced by this respiratory disturbance of sleep and its immediate consequence, intermittent hypoxia.
The scientists – including IBEC’s Cellular and Respiratory Biomechanics group (pictured), led by Daniel Navajas – carried out their study in young mice, equivalent to human teenagers, as well as old ones corresponding to people aged over 65. They found that the lack of oxygen during sleep apnoa (hypoxia) – a chronic disease which affects about the 10% of the adult population worldwide – sped up tumour growth in the youngest ones only.
The research team related these results with a differential immune response to intermittent hypoxia in the macrophages associated with the tumor and in the regulatory lymphocytes. “Our challenge now is to identify and prove sleep apnea’s physiopathological consequences and contribute to developing personalized medicine to work on its handling,” says Isaac Almendros, assistant professor at the UB’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences and IDIBAPS.
The research, led by the UB’s Ramon Farré, Josep María Montserrat and Isaac Almendros, represents a important scientific advance in the understanding of the potential effects of obstructive sleep apnea in cancer. The research team was already a pioneer in the field with their contribution of the first evidence of the role of intermittent hypoxia in cancer development.
Other participants in the study were from the La Fe University and Technical Hospital in Valencia, the Hospital Virgen de Valme in Seville) and the University of Chicago, among other institutions. The research was carried out within the Respiratory Diseases Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBERES), a research area of the public research consortium Consorcio Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red (CIBER), set up in 2006 to promote research in biomedicine and the health sciences.
Torres, M., Campillo, N., Nonaka, P.N., Montserrat, J.M., Gozal, D., Martínez-García, M.A., Campos-Rodriguez, F., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I. (2018). “Aging Reduces Intermittent Hypoxia-induced Lung Carcinoma Growth in a Mouse Model of Sleep Apnea”. Am J Respir Crit Care Med., epub ahead of print