Thanks to an experiment in mice, a team of Spanish scientists has shown that sleep apnea promotes growth in lung cancer in younger individuals. An advanced age would, therefore, be a protective factor against the rapid tumor development induced by this respiratory sleep disorder.
Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is a chronic disease that represents a major global health problem and affects approximately 10% of adult population.
Given the interest that has arisen in recent years in the possible relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and its most immediate consequence, intermittent hypoxia with the appearance of tumors, researchers of the Biomedical Research Center in Network for Respiratory Diseases (CIBERES) who belong to the groups of Ramon Farré (University of Barcelona) and Josep María Montserrat (University of Barcelona and Hospital Clinic of Barcelona) have published a work in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine about the possible effects of this apnea in cancer.
The work done in young mice (age equivalent to adolescents in humans) and old mice (equivalent to patients over 65 years) shows how the lack of oxygen during sleep (hypoxia) accelerates tumor growth only in the young subjects.
The researchers, led by Isaac Almendros, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and a member of IDIBAPS, have linked these results with a different immune response to intermittent hypoxia in tumor-associated macrophages and regulatory lymphocytes.
“It is significant to highlight the importance of research with animals with an age equivalent to that of patients with chronic respiratory diseases such as obstructive sleep apnea,” says Almendros. “Our challenge is to identify and demonstrate the pathophysiological consequences of sleep apnea and contribute to the development of personalized medicine for comprehensive management,” he adds.
The work also involved experts from the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), the University and Polytechnic Hospital la Fe (Valencia), Virgen de Valme Hospital (Seville) and the University of Chicago (United States), among other institutions.