Our Lung Cancer Research

Lung Cancer Research Projects


Dr. Tetyana Kendzerska

Obstructive sleep apnea and cancer development and progression: evidence from clinical and health administrative data

Amount awarded: $40,000

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep-related breathing disorder where repeated episodes of upper airway narrowing or collapse during sleep lead to disrupted sleep and periods of low blood oxygen levels. OSA may cause sleepiness, traffic accidents and predispose to serious health problems. Treatment for OSA exists, but it is not always tolerated or acceptable to patients. As a result of low blood oxygen level and disrupted sleep, OSA may increase the risk of cancer development and progression. Studies to date have not confirmed the possible link between OSA and cancer. Most studies published had to pool all types of cancer because they had too few new cases, potentially diluting the link with a specific type of cancer. If OSA is in fact a carcinogen and if treatment of OSA might prevent cancer, it would be another piece of the puzzle to understanding the origins of cancer as well as a possible avenue to prevent cancer.

The purpose of our study is to evaluate the link between OSA severity, as measured by the number of pauses in breathing or blood oxygen level in sleep, and development of new cases of cancer (all and by different subtypes) or dying from cancer. We will also assess which patients with OSA are at the higher risk of cancer or dying from cancer.

To do this, we will use clinical data from four large comprehensive sleep databases (~ 30,000 individuals) together with high quality validated information routinely collected during the course of universal health care delivery in Ontario (Canada). Individuals will be followed for more than 10 years based on their contacts with the health care system to identify all new cancers and deaths. As a result, we will be able to confirm the link between OSA and cancer and to identify individuals with OSA at higher risk.

We are uniquely positioned to investigate the link between OSA and cancer, as we have access to multicenter exposure data, high quality outcome data and relatively complete longitudinal follow-up data. Knowledge of a patient’s risk will empower clinicians and patients to make informed decisions about treatment of OSA and may assist in advocating for better care and research into new therapies for OSA by adding to the known consequences of OSA. This information will support a discussion between patients and physicians on the management options and follow-up strategies available; it will allow clinicians to identify patients who benefit the most from treatment. It may also motivate improvements in treatment adherence ultimately improve patient outcomes and the quality of care for these patients.


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