Oxygen May Be a Clue to Prostate Cancer Recurrence

It’s a question that haunts men who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer: will the cancer come back? A team of radiation oncologists at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) Cancer Program have discovered a way to help answer that question and report that oxygen is a clue to prostate cancer recurrence in men with intermediate-risk disease.

Standard treatment for men with prostate cancer includes surgery (prostatectomy), radiation therapy, or both. However, even these aggressive measures do not guarantee elimination of cancer, as about 25% of men who have been treated experience recurrence of prostate cancer.

Dr. Michael Milosevic, a radiation oncologist in the PMH Cancer Program, University Health Network, and his team measured oxygen levels in 247 men with localized prostate cancer before they underwent radiation therapy, and then followed them for an average of 6.6 years. They found that low oxygen in the tumors predicted recurrence of the cancer after radiation treatment.

According to Milosevic, “We’ve not only shown that men do worse if they have low oxygen levels (hypoxia) in their prostate cancer, but that they also do worse over a shorter period of time.” Previous research has shown that regular exercise can improve survival in men with prostate cancer, while other studies have shown exercise can reduce prostate cancer risk. Exercise can increase the amount of oxygen throughout the body.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Milosevic M et al. Tumor hypoxia predicts biochemical failure following radiotherapy for clinically localized prostate cancer. Clinical Cancer Research 2012 Apr 1; 18(7): 2108-14