Imaging tumor hypoxia by magnetic resonance methods

NMR Biomed. 2011 Jan;24(1):1-16. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1558. Epub 2010 Dec 9.


Tumor hypoxia results from the negative balance between the oxygen demands of the tissue and the capacity of the neovasculature to deliver sufficient oxygen. The resulting oxygen deficit has important consequences with regard to the aggressiveness and malignancy of tumors, as well as their resistance to therapy, endowing the imaging of hypoxia with vital repercussions in tumor prognosis and therapy design. The molecular and cellular events underlying hypoxia are mediated mainly through hypoxia-inducible factor, a transcription factor with pleiotropic effects over a variety of cellular processes, including oncologic transformation, invasion and metastasis. However, few methodologies have been able to monitor noninvasively the oxygen tensions in vivo. MRI and MRS are often used for this purpose. Most MRI approaches are based on the effects of the local oxygen tension on: (i) the relaxation times of (19)F or (1)H indicators, such as perfluorocarbons or their (1)H analogs; (ii) the hemodynamics and magnetic susceptibility effects of oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin; and (iii) the effects of paramagnetic oxygen on the relaxation times of tissue water. (19)F MRS approaches monitor tumor hypoxia through the selective accumulation of reduced nitroimidazole derivatives in hypoxic zones, whereas electron spin resonance methods determine the oxygen level through its influence on the linewidths of appropriate paramagnetic probes in vivo. Finally, Overhauser-enhanced MRI combines the sensitivity of EPR methodology with the resolution of MRI, providing a window into the future use of hyperpolarized oxygen probes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Biomarkers