BACKGROUND: Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy is the inhalation of 100% oxygen at a pressure of at least 1.5 atmospheres absolute (150 kPa). It uses oxygen as a drug by dissolving it in the plasma and delivering it to the tissues independent of hemoglobin. For a variety of organ systems, HBO is known to promote new vessel growth into areas with reduced oxygen tension due to poor vascularity, and therewith promotes wound healing and recovery of radiation-injured tissue. Furthermore, tumors may be sensitized to irradiation by raising intratumoral oxygen tensions.
METHOD: A network of hyperbaric facilities exists in Europe, and a number of clinical studies are ongoing. The intergovernmental framework COST B14 action "Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy" started in 1999. The main goal of the Working Group Oncology is preparation and actual implementation of prospective study protocols in the field of HBO and radiation oncology in Europe.
RESULTS: In this paper a short overview on HBO is given and the following randomized clinical studies are presented: a) reirradiation of recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck after HBO sensitization; b) role of HBO in enhancing radiosensitivity on glioblastoma multiforme; c) osseointegration in irradiated patients; adjunctive HBO to prevent implant failures; d) the role of HBO in the treatment of late irradiation sequelae in the pelvic region. The two radiosensitization protocols (a, b) allow a time interval between HBO and subsequent irradiation of 10-20 min.
CONCLUSION: Recruitment of centers and patients is being strongly encouraged, detailed information is given on www.oxynet.org.