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Cancer Res. 2004 Jan 1;64(1):13-8.

Increased metastatic dissemination in human melanoma xenografts after subcurative radiation treatment: radiation-induced increase in fraction of hypoxic cells and hypoxia-induced up-regulation of urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor.

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Group of Radiation Biology and Tumor Physiology, Department of Biophysics, Institute for Cancer Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Montebello, Oslo, Norway.


Cancer patients showing local failure after radiation treatment have increased probability for developing metastatic disease. The mechanisms behind this observation have not been identified. In the present work, metastatic spread after inadequate radiation therapy was studied by using R-18 human melanoma xenografts as models of cancer in humans. Pimonidazole was used as a hypoxia marker, and hypoxia and urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) expression were detected by immunohistochemistry. R-18 tumors regrowing after subcurative irradiation showed a higher frequency of lymph node metastasis than unirradiated tumors. The expression of uPAR was up-regulated in hypoxic tumor regions, and the fractions of hypoxic and uPAR-positive cells were approximately 2-fold higher in regrowing irradiated tumors than in untreated tumors. Treatment with anti-uPAR antibody blocked metastasis almost completely in irradiated as well as unirradiated tumors. The metastatic frequency was higher in tumors regrowing after irradiation than in unirradiated tumors because the irradiation induced tumor hypoxia, and tumor hypoxia induced up-regulation of uPAR.

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