ARCON: a novel biology-based approach in radiotherapy

Lancet Oncol. 2002 Dec;3(12):728-37. doi: 10.1016/s1470-2045(02)00929-4.


Two mechanisms of radiotherapy resistance which are of major importance in various tumour types are tumour-cell repopulation and hypoxia. ARCON (accelerated radiotherapy with carbogen and nicotinamide) is a new therapeutic strategy that combines radiation treatment modifications, with the aim of counteracting these resistance mechanisms. To limit clonogenic repopulation during therapy, the overall duration of the radiotherapy is reduced, generally by delivering several fractions per day. This accelerated radiotherapy is combined with inhalation of hyperoxic gas to decrease diffusion-limited hypoxia, and nicotinamide, a vasoactive agent, to decrease perfusion-limited hypoxia. Preclinical studies have been done to test the enhancing effects of these three components of ARCON, individually and in combination, in several experimentally induced tumours and normal tissues. In a mouse mammary carcinoma, the tumour-control rate obtained with ARCON was the same as that with conventional treatment, but with a radiation dose almost 50% lower. Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials have shown the feasibility and tolerability of ARCON, and have produced promising results in terms of tumour control. In particular in cancers of the head and neck and bladder, the local tumour-control rates are higher than in other studies, and phase 3 trials for these tumour types are underway. In conjunction with these trials, hypoxia markers detectable by immunohistochemistry are being tested for their potential use in predictive assays to select patients for ARCON and other hypoxia-modifying therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon Dioxide / administration & dosage
  • Carbon Dioxide / pharmacology*
  • Carcinoma / radiotherapy*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / radiotherapy*
  • Mice
  • Niacinamide / administration & dosage
  • Niacinamide / pharmacology*
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage
  • Oxygen / pharmacology*
  • Patient Selection
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / administration & dosage
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Radiotherapy / methods*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / radiotherapy*


  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Niacinamide
  • carbogen
  • Oxygen