The relationship between tumor oxygenation and cell proliferation in human soft tissue sarcomas

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1996 Jul 1;35(4):701-8. doi: 10.1016/0360-3016(96)00132-0.


Purpose: In malignant tumors the oxygenation status and tumor cell proliferation are known to influence local tumor control after radiotherapy. However, the relationship between oxygenation status and tumor cell kinetics in human tumors has not yet been described. Newly developed clinically applicable techniques such as oxygen electrode measurements and assessment of tumor cell proliferation rates have been suggested as promising predictive assays. The purpose of the present study was to characterize tumor oxygenation status in soft tissue sarcomas and to compare this with tumor cell kinetics and clinical parameters.

Methods and materials: Pretreatment tumor oxygenation status was measured by polarographic oxygen needle electrodes and evaluated as the median pO2 and the percentage of pO2 values < or = 5 mmHg and < or = 2.5 mmHg in 22 patients with primary soft tissue sarcomas. All tumors were characterized by histology, grade of malignancy, the level of microscopic necrosis, the level of effective hemoglobin, and magnetic resonance imaging estimation of tumor volume. The tumor cell potential doubling time and labeling index were measured by flow cytometric and immunohistochemical analysis of tumor biopsy specimens after in vivo incorporation of iododeoxyuridine.

Results: There was a significant correlation between the median pO2 and the tumor cell potential doubling time (p = 0.041), whereas no correlation was found between the level of hypoxia expressed by the percentage of pO2 values < or = 2.5 and < or = 5 mmHg, respectively, and tumor cell potential doubling time. Furthermore, no correlation was found between either of the three tumor oxygenation parameters and labeling index. The material represented large intertumor heterogeneity in oxygenation status, cell kinetics, and tumor volume, and no correlation was found between oxygenation status and either volume, histopathology, grade of malignancy, or effective hemoglobin.

Conclusion: This report is the first to suggest a correlation between tumor oxygenation and tumor cell doubling time, as the fastest proliferating tumor cells were found in the poorest oxygenated soft tissue sarcomas. More data are needed to clarify if this relation is really a true biological phenomenon. Furthermore, tumor oxygenation status of soft tissue sarcomas was heterogeneous and independent of clinical and histopathological parameters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Division
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Sarcoma / metabolism*
  • Sarcoma / pathology
  • Sarcoma / radiotherapy
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / pathology
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / radiotherapy


  • Oxygen