Measuring hypoxia and predicting tumor radioresistance with nuclear medicine assays

Radiother Oncol. 1998 Mar;46(3):229-37. doi: 10.1016/s0167-8140(97)00186-2.


Tumor cells at low oxygen tension are relatively radioresistant. The hypoxic fraction of individual tumors before, during and after radiotherapy is likely to have prognostic value but its diagnosis still awaits an accurate and acceptable assay. The recent indications that hypoxia can also induce the expression of specific genes and promote a more aggressive tumor phenotype makes its diagnosis even more important. Over 15 years ago, misonidazole, an azomycin-based hypoxic cell radiosensitizer, was found to link covalently to cellular molecules at rates inversely proportional to intracellular oxygen concentration. The use of bioreducible markers to positively label zones of viable hypoxic cells within solid tumors and to predict for tumor radioresistance was proposed. Several hypoxic markers have now been identified and their selective binding within tumors has been measured by both invasive and non-invasive assays. Research from our laboratory has emphasized both mechanistic and preclinical studies associated with nuclear medicine procedures for measuring tumor hypoxia and predicting tumor radioresistance. This report updates radiation oncologists about the status of nuclear medicine hypoxic marker research and development as of mid-1997. While several potential imaging agents have been identified, their testing and validation in appropriate human tumors will require focused research efforts by individual academic departments and, possibly, by clinical trials performed through cooperative groups. Since the prediction of hypoxia in individual tumors could strongly impact radiotherapy treatment planning, the radiation oncology research community is best positioned to execute the validation studies associated with these markers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Nuclear Medicine / methods
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Radiation Tolerance
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor