Oxygen-Enhanced MRI Accurately Identifies, Quantifies, and Maps Tumor Hypoxia in Preclinical Cancer Models

James O'Connor, Jessica K R Boult, Yann Jamin, Muhammad Babur, Katie Finegan, Kaye Williams, Ross Little, Alan Jackson, Geoff Parker, Andrew R. Reynolds, John Waterton, Simon P Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a clinical need for noninvasive biomarkers of tumor hypoxia for prognostic and predictive studies, radiotherapy planning, and therapy monitoring. Oxygen-enhanced MRI (OE-MRI) is an emerging imaging technique for quantifying the spatial distribution and extent of tumor oxygen delivery in vivo. In OE-MRI, the longitudinal relaxation rate of protons (ΔR1) changes in proportion to the concentration of molecular oxygen dissolved in plasma or interstitial tissue fluid. Therefore, well-oxygenated tissues show positive ΔR1. We hypothesized that the fraction of tumor tissue refractory to oxygen challenge (lack of positive ΔR1, termed "Oxy-R fraction") would be a robust biomarker of hypoxia in models with varying vascular and hypoxic features. Here, we demonstrate that OE-MRI signals are accurate, precise, and sensitive to changes in tumor pO2 in highly vascular 786-0 renal cancer xenografts. Furthermore, we show that Oxy-R fraction can quantify the hypoxic fraction in multiple models with differing hypoxic and vascular phenotypes, when used in combination with measurements of tumor perfusion. Finally, Oxy-R fraction can detect dynamic changes in hypoxia induced by the vasomodulator agent hydralazine. In contrast, more conventional biomarkers of hypoxia (derived from blood oxygenation-level dependent MRI and dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI) did not relate to tumor hypoxia consistently. Our results show that the Oxy-R fraction accurately quantifies tumor hypoxia noninvasively and is immediately translatable to the clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-795
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2016


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