Scientists Are Developing Fizzy Drinks That Could Help with Cancer Treatment

Scientists at Cancer Research UK are developing a drink filled with oxygen bubbles that could make tumors more receptive to radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
June 8, 2016, 12:00pmUpdated on June 8, 2016, 1:15pm
Photo via Flickr user Juho Metsävuori

Fizzy drinks have gotten a bad rep recently. The introduction of a sugar tax in the UK primarily targets the carbonated, sweet stuff and even Beyoncé has been rapped on the knuckles for promoting Pepsi. But new findings from Cancer Research UK could change our minds about the sugar-loaded beverages.

OK, so a can of Coke isn't going to cure cancer but researchers at the University of Oxford and Ulster University working for the cancer research charity are currently developing a drink filled with oxygen bubbles that could make tumours more receptive to radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

According to a Cancer Research press release released today on the new study, "some tumours have learnt to adapt to harsher, low-oxygen conditions, making them more resistant to drugs [...] meaning chemotherapy fails to penetrate the heart of the tumour."

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The drink the researchers are developing is filled with oxygen microbubbles, which they hope will re-oxygenate tumours "to make treatments more potent" and allow "radiotherapy and chemotherapy to deliver a knock-out blow."

Dr Aine McCarthy, communications officer for Cancer Research UK, told MUNCHIES that findings from the lab show positive results. She said: "Researchers have had success with mice in laboratory studies. The treatment is still in very early stages but the mice showed promising signs."

The research will focus primarily on treating pancreatic cancer, as tumours to the organ are particularly deprived of oxygen and effective treatments are currently very limited. Pancreatic cancer is also the fifth most common cause of cancer death in the UK, killing around 8,700 people every year.

Close to the stomach, the pancreas and produces the hormones and juices required for the digestive process. Researchers will look at how oxygen bubbles travel from the stomach to pancreatic tumours and investigate whether a drink could provide a means of transport.

At the moment, methods of oxygenating pancreatic tumours (such as breathing in pure oxygen or injecting liquids filled with oxygen direct to the tumour site) are effective but can have serious side effects, including damage to the lungs and nervous system.

A bubbly drink may carry fewer risks and the researchers hope that it can play a role in the treatment of other cancers, too.

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McCarthy added: "Ideally, when you develop any treatment of this type, you hope that it will be able to be used for other types of cancers. This drink could help other types of cancer, but it's hard to say for sure at this stage as it hasn't gone through any clinical trials with humans."

The study may be in its early stages but we'll cheers a can of Coke to that.