Therapeutic Modification of Hypoxia

Authors Horsman MR, Sørensen BS, Busk M, Siemann DW
Source Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) . 2021 Nov;33(11):e492-e509 Publicationdate 14 Sep 2021


Regions of reduced oxygenation (hypoxia) are a characteristic feature of virtually all animal and human solid tumours. Numerous preclinical studies, both in vitro and in vivo, have shown that decreasing oxygen concentration induces resistance to radiation. Importantly, hypoxia in human tumours is a negative indicator of radiotherapy outcome. Hypoxia also contributes to resistance to other cancer therapeutics, including immunotherapy, and increases malignant progression as well as cancer cell dissemination. Consequently, substantial effort has been made to detect hypoxia in human tumours and identify realistic approaches to overcome hypoxia and improve cancer therapy outcomes. Hypoxia-targeting strategies include improving oxygen availability, sensitising hypoxic cells to radiation, preferentially killing these cells, locating the hypoxic regions in tumours and increasing the radiation dose to those areas, or applying high energy transfer radiation, which is less affected by hypoxia. Despite numerous clinical studies with each of these hypoxia-modifying approaches, many of which improved both local tumour control and overall survival, hypoxic modification has not been established in routine clinical practice. Here we review the background and significance of hypoxia, how it can be imaged clinically and focus on the various hypoxia-modifying techniques that have undergone, or are currently in, clinical evaluation.

Keywords: Hypoxia; hypoxia imaging; radiotherapy; therapeutic modifiers.