Intermittent oxygen desaturation from obstructive sleep apnea is associated with accelerated lung cancer recurrence within two years after curative treatment.

RT’s Three Key Takeaways:

  1. The study found a significant association between intermittent oxygen desaturation and accelerated lung cancer recurrence within two years.
  2. Time spent below 89% oxygen saturation and single minimum oxygen levels were major indicators of accelerated cancer reoccurrence.
  3. Further studies with larger sample sizes and the impact of CPAP therapy on cancer outcomes are being planned to explore this relationship further.

A new study finds that episodic hypoxemia and hypoxic burden related to obstructive sleep apnea are associated with the risk of accelerated lung cancer reoccurrence.

Results, presented at the SLEEP 2024 annual meeting, show that a 4% oxygen desaturation index of more than 15 and time spent in desaturation events were risk factors for cancer reappearance in less than two years. Measures of hypoxic burden such as time spent below 89% oxygen saturation, average oxygen saturation value below 89%, and single nadir oxygen levels, showed a similar association. 

After adjustment for potential confounders, average oxygen saturation below 89% and single minimum oxygen level remained strongly correlated with accelerated cancer reoccurrence.

Unexpectedly Strong Association

“We were suspecting that we would find a positive association between measures of intermittent hypoxemia and lung cancer reoccurrence; nonetheless, we never expected to see such a strong signal,” says lead author Fernando Figueroa Rodriguez, MD, sleep medicine fellow at the Mayo Clinic in the division of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine, in a release. “This caught us by surprise; but at the same time, this keeps us encouraged and eager to produce more data.”

Study and Future Research

The study involved a retrospective record review of 403 adult patients from January 2016 to September 2023. They had a median age of 74 years, and 52% were female. The patients had a history of non-small cell lung cancer and received an overnight oximetry study within three years prior to undergoing curative malignancy treatment. During the study period, 68 patients (22%) had lung cancer reoccurrence, with a median time period of 19 months.

Figueroa Rodriguez notes that a new study with an increased sample size has been initiated for the performance of additional analyses to better understand this relationship. Similarly, researchers at the Mayo Clinic are evaluating the impact of CPAP therapy for sleep apnea on cancer outcomes.

“At this time we have not finalized these next steps; nevertheless, we have a fantastic team working on the necessary requirements to have this data ready soon,” says Figueroa Rodriguez in a release.

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