FDG uptake, a surrogate of tumour hypoxia?

Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2008 Aug;35(8):1544-9. doi: 10.1007/s00259-008-0758-5. Epub 2008 May 29.


Introduction: Tumour hyperglycolysis is driven by activation of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) through tumour hypoxia. Accordingly, the degree of 2-fluro-2-deoxy-D: -glucose (FDG) uptake by tumours might indirectly reflect the level of hypoxia, obviating the need for more specific radiopharmaceuticals for hypoxia imaging.

Discussion: In this paper, available data on the relationship between hypoxia and FDG uptake by tumour tissue in vitro and in vivo are reviewed. In pre-clinical in vitro studies, acute hypoxia was consistently shown to increase FDG uptake by normal and tumour cells within a couple of hours after onset with mobilisation or modification of glucose transporters optimising glucose uptake, followed by a delayed response with increased rates of transcription of GLUT mRNA. In pre-clinical imaging studies on chronic hypoxia that compared FDG uptake by tumours grown in rat or mice to uptake by FMISO, the pattern of normoxic and hypoxic regions within the human tumour xenografts, as imaged by FMISO, largely correlated with glucose metabolism although minor locoregional differences could not be excluded. In the clinical setting, data are limited and discordant.

Conclusion: Further evaluation of FDG uptake by various tumour types in relation to intrinsic and bioreductive markers of hypoxia and response to radiotherapy or hypoxia-dependent drugs is needed to fully assess its application as a marker of hypoxia in the clinical setting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacokinetics


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Oxygen