Tumor hypoxia as a modifier of DNA strand break and cross-link repair

Curr Mol Med. 2009 May;9(4):401-10. doi: 10.2174/156652409788167050.


Hypoxia is a common characteristic of many solid tumors and is associated with poor prognosis. Cells with low oxygen levels can have altered sensitivity to radiotherapy and chemotherapy secondary to changes in the incidence of DNA single- and double-strand breaks (DNA-ssb, DNA-dsb), DNA base damage, DNA-DNA cross-links and DNA-protein cross-links. Recent evidence also supports that cells exposed to chronic hypoxia have a decreased capacity of DNA-dsb repair. This review will examine the influence of short-term and prolonged hypoxia on the two major pathways of DNA-dsb repair: homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ). Novel treatment strategies designed to exploit the hypoxic tumor microenvironment are also discussed. Modification of DNA damage sensing and repair due to fluctuating oxygen levels within a dynamic tumor microenvironment may have profound implications for tumor progression and treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded*
  • DNA Breaks, Single-Stranded*
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Recombination, Genetic