Molecular imaging of hypoxia with radiolabelled agents

Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2009 Oct;36(10):1674-86. doi: 10.1007/s00259-009-1195-9. Epub 2009 Jun 30.


Tissue hypoxia results from an inadequate supply of oxygen (O2) that compromises biological functions. Structural and functional abnormalities of the tumour vasculature together with altered diffusion conditions inside the tumour seem to be the main causes of tumour hypoxia. Evidence from experimental and clinical studies points to a role for tumour hypoxia in tumour propagation, resistance to therapy and malignant progression. This has led to the development of assays for the detection of hypoxia in patients in order to predict outcome and identify patients with a worse prognosis and/or patients that would benefit from appropriate treatments. A variety of invasive and non-invasive approaches have been developed to measure tumour oxygenation including oxygen-sensitive electrodes and hypoxia marker techniques using various labels that can be detected by different methods such as positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), autoradiography and immunohistochemistry. This review aims to give a detailed overview of non-invasive molecular imaging modalities with radiolabelled PET and SPECT tracers that are available to measure tumour hypoxia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Radiopharmaceuticals*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon


  • Radiopharmaceuticals