Imaging the tumor microenvironment : the dynamics and modification of hypoxia
Abstract: The tumor vasculature is poor and heterogeneous which may result in inadequate oxygenation and changed energy status. In addition the balance between cell proliferation and the rate of cell death is disturbed, which results in tumor growth. The aims of this study were 1) to gain more insight into the relation between tumor vascularity, hypoxia, and proliferation in solid tumors, and 2) to study the changes and dynamics of tumor oxygenation in relation to the vascular architecture within individual tumors. For this purpose a double hypoxic marker method was developed, which was subsequently used to 3) determine the turnover rate of hypoxic cells in three different tumor models and 4) to study the effect of cytotoxic drugs on tumor hypoxia and cell death.Solid tumor models grown in mice were used. The tumor microenvironment was investigated with exogenous cell markers for hypoxia (pimonidazole and CCI-103F), cell proliferation (BrdUrd) and blood perfusion (Hoechst 33342). The vasculature and the exogenous cell markers were visualized with immunohistochemical techniques. The tumor sections were scanned and quantified with an image analysis systemconsisting of a fluorescence microscope, CCD camera and image analysis software.The spatial organization of hypoxia, proliferation, and tumor vasculature was analyzed in several xenograft lines. The study revealed two main hypoxic patterns that seemed to be the consequence of complex relations between vasculature, oxygen delivery, proliferation, and cell loss. The novel double hypoxic cell marker method, with sequential injection of two hypoxic markers, was developed to study dynamic changes of the tumor oxygenation. Based on varying injection intervals between the markers the hypoxic cell half-life was determined in three tumor lines, and ranged from 17 to 49 hours. Intra-tumoral changes in oxygenation status upon oxygen modifying treatments were measured with the double hypoxic marker method. Both decreased levels of tumor hypoxia after carbogen breathing (95%O2 and 5% CO2) and increased levels of tumor hypoxia, as a result of reduced tumor perfusion after hydralazine treatment was detected. Finally the double hypoxic marker assay was used to analyze the effects of the hypoxic cytotoxin tirapazamine in relation to the hypoxic cell population, which caused a reversible decrease of the hypoxic fraction.The results presented in this thesis now form the basis for further studies to identify subpopulations of cells that represent specific targets for therapy, and to investigate the effects of different treatment modalities.
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