Cancer / Tumor Biology

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Most cell-based cancer studies are performed with oxygen conditions never found in tumors.

Hypoxia is a well known aspect of cancer biology. The Warburg Effect describes how tumor cells use metabolic pathways adapted to low oxygen conditions (0-4% O2) in poorly vascularized, highly competitive tumor environments. Pathophysiologic hypoxia is a contributing factor in carcinogenesis, cell cycle, metabolism, angiogenesis, metastatic progression, induction of stem-like traits, immune evasion, and therapeutic resistance.

To understand hypoxia’s role in cancer cell phenotype, researchers use hypoxia in cell-based experiments to simulate the cancer microenvironment. Physiologically relevant oxygen environments improve the predictive capacity of cell-based assays. Cancer scientists insert hypoxia chambers into existing CO2 incubators to economically perform low oxygen (hypoxic) experiments without purchasing new incubators.

Brief interruptions of hypoxia occur when handling cell cultures in open hoods and these disruptions alter cell function. Instead, using hypoxic workstations (glove boxes) to incubate and handle tumor cells prevents the random variation of oxygen conditions that normally occur during cell manipulation and cell analysis.