Assessment of tumor oxygenation by electron paramagnetic resonance: principles and applications

NMR Biomed. 2004 Aug;17(5):240-62. doi: 10.1002/nbm.900.


This review paper attempts to provide an overview of the principles and techniques that are often termed electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) oximetry. The paper discusses the potential of such methods and illustrates they have been successfully applied to measure oxygen tension, an essential parameter of the tumor microenvironment. To help the reader understand the motivation for carrying out these measurements, the importance of tumor hypoxia is first discussed: the basic issues of why a tumor is hypoxic, why these hypoxic microenvironments promote processes driving malignant progression and why hypoxia dramatically influences the response of tumors to cytotoxic treatments will be explained. The different methods that have been used to estimate the oxygenation in tumors will be reviewed. To introduce the basics of EPR oximetry, the specificity of in vivo EPR will be discussed by comparing this technique with NMR and MRI. The different types of paramagnetic oxygen sensors will be presented, as well as the methods for recording the information (EPR spectroscopy, EPR imaging, dynamic nuclear polarization). Several applications of EPR for characterizing tumor oxygenation will be illustrated, with a special emphasis on pharmacological interventions that modulate the tumor microenvironment. Finally, the challenges for transposing the method into the clinic will also be discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cell Respiration
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy / instrumentation*
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy / trends
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oximetry / instrumentation
  • Oximetry / methods
  • Oximetry / trends
  • Oxygen / analysis
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Oxygen