Effect of distributional heterogeneity on the analysis of tumor hypoxia based on carbonic anhydrase IX

Lab Invest. 2007 Dec;87(12):1206-17. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.3700680. Epub 2007 Oct 1.


Immunohistochemistry (IHC) is used extensively to assess markers for prognosis and sensitivity to novel anticancer agents, as well as in the routine clinical assessment of cancers. Yet, although it is well known that tumors are highly heterogeneous, the resulting sampling error in the measurement of histological markers is often ignored, particularly in basic scientific studies. In this paper, we tested the hypothesis that the optimization of tissue sampling to compensate for heterogeneity improves the correlation between histological measurements of the intrinsic hypoxia marker carbonic anhydrase IX (CAIX) and global tumor oxygenation status. The study was based on a group of 24 patients with invasive cervical carcinoma from whom multiple biopsies were obtained at the time of direct pO2 assessment within the tumor, done as part of a research study. Measurements were made by image analysis of multiple deep sections cut through these biopsies, labeled for CAIX using both immunofluorescence and immunohistochemical techniques, and included tissue microarray (TMA) simulations. Variance and correlation analysis showed that the size of the tissue sample (biopsy or TMA core) was the major factor affecting accuracy of measurement in the sample. Sampling of multiple biopsies/cores also improved the global tumor assessment, provided that these were sufficiently separated in space. Optimization of sampling resulted in an improved correlation of CAIX staining with tumor pO2 measurements, consistent with the hypothesis. However, CAIX was inferior to pO2 measurements as a tool for patient stratification. Improved analytical methods to account for intratumoral heterogeneity are needed to provide reliable measurements of molecular markers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Biopsy
  • Carbonic Anhydrase IX
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / metabolism*
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Partial Pressure
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA9 protein, human
  • Carbonic Anhydrase IX
  • Carbonic Anhydrases
  • Oxygen