Hypoxia-activated tumor pathways of angiogenesis and pH regulation independent of anemia in head-and-neck cancer.
Koukourakis MI., Giatromanolaki A., Sivridis E., Pastorek J., Karapantzos I., Gatter KC., Harris AL., Tumour and Angiogenesis Research Group None.
PURPOSE: Anemia is considered a major factor that counteracts the efficacy of radiotherapy, presumably because of reduced oxygen availability that leads to tumor hypoxia. Nevertheless, anemia is not the only factor defining oxygen availability, because a poor and/or immature vascular network may prevent blood flow and tumor oxygenation. Furthermore, the ability of tumors to upregulate hypoxia-regulated molecular pathways may affect radiosensitivity by mechanisms independent of the traditional concept of "oxygen effect." METHODS AND MATERIALS: In this study, we investigated whether the preoperative blood hemoglobin levels affect the activation status of hypoxia/angiogenic pathways (hypoxia inducible factors [HIF1 alpha and HIF2 alpha], carbonic anhydrase 9, differentiated embryo-chondrocyte protein, vascular endothelial growth factor, and microvessel density), in squamous cell head-and-neck cancer. RESULTS: Hypoxia/angiogenesis pathways were equally activated in tumors, independent of the patient's hemoglobin levels. The expression of HIF alphas was associated with microvessel density (p = 0.01). CONCLUSION: In the present study, we failed to show that a patient's anemia is a main contributor to the activation of hypoxia-regulated molecular pathways in squamous cell head-and-neck cancer. Impaired intratumoral blood flow or tumor-related gene/protein pathologic features may account for this finding. Targeting the hypoxia-regulated molecular cascade emerged as a complementary radiosensitization strategy for a large group of patients with hypoxic tumors, who are unlikely to benefit from conventional approaches aiming to improve intratumoral oxygen delivery through anemia correction.