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Acta Oncol. 2004;43(4):396-403.

Tumor hypoxia is independent of hemoglobin and prognostic for loco-regional tumor control after primary radiotherapy in advanced head and neck cancer.

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Department of Experimental Clinical Oncology, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark.


There is evidence that tumor hypoxia adversely affects loco-regional tumor control and survival in head and neck cancer. The aim of the current study was to compare pretreatment tumor oxygenation measured by Eppendorf pO2 electrodes with known prognostic factors in advanced head and neck tumors after definitive radiotherapy, and to evaluate the prognostic significance of these parameters on loco-regional tumor control. Sixty-seven patients, median age 56 years (22-82), all with primary stage III-IV squamous cell carcinoma were available for survival analysis. Tumor oxygenation was described as the fraction of pO2 values < or = 2.5 mmHg (HP2.5) and the median tumor pO2. By regression analysis HP2.5 was independent of known prognostic factors including stage, pretreatment hemoglobin (Hb) and the largest tumor diameter at the site of pO2 measurement. By Kaplan-Meier analysis loco-regional tumor control at 5 years was in favor of less hypoxic tumors using either HP2.5 or median tumor pO2 as descriptors and stratifying by the median values. Also, Hb was prognostic of loco-regional tumor control at 5 years using the median value as cut off. HP2.5 as continuous parameter was highly significant for loco-regional tumor control in a multivariate analysis. In conclusion both HP2.5 and total Hb were prognostic for loco-regional tumor control, but HP2.5 as continuous variable was independently the strongest prognostic indicator for loco-regional tumor control after definitive primary radiotherapy in advanced head and neck tumors.

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