Ljungkvist, A. S. E., Bussink, J., Kaanders, J. H. A. M. and van der Kogel, A. J. Dynamics of Tumor Hypoxia Measured with Bioreductive Hypoxic Cell Markers. Radiat. Res. 167, 127–145 (2007).
Hypoxic cells are common in tumors and contribute to malignant progression, distant metastasis and resistance to radiotherapy. It is well known that tumors are heterogeneous with respect to the levels and duration of hypoxia. Several strategies, including high-oxygen-content gas breathing, radiosensitizers and hypoxic cytotoxins, have been developed to overcome hypoxia-mediated radioresistance. However, with these strategies, an increased tumor control rate is often accompanied by more severe side effects. Consequently, development of assays for prediction of tumor response and early monitoring of treatment responses could reduce both over- and undertreatment, thereby avoiding unnecessary side effects. The purpose of this review is to discuss different assays for measurement of hypoxia that can be used to detect changes in oxygen tension. The main focus is on exogenous bioreductive hypoxia markers (2-nitroimidazoles) such as pimonidazole, CCI-103F, EF5 and F-misonidazole. These are specifically reduced and bind to macromolecules in viable hypoxic cells. A number of these bioreductive drugs are approved for clinical use and can be detected with methods ranging from noninvasive PET imaging (low resolution) to microscopic imaging of tumor sections (high resolution). If the latter are stained for multiple markers, hypoxia can be analyzed in relation to different microenvironmental parameters such as vasculature, proliferation and endogenous hypoxia-related markers, for instance HIF1α and CA-IX. In addition, temporal and spatial changes in hypoxia can be analyzed by consecutive injection of two different hypoxia markers. Therefore, bioreductive exogenous hypoxia markers are promising as tools for development of predictive assays or as tools for early treatment monitoring and validation of potential endogenous hypoxia markers.