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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2010 Mar 1;76(3):879-88. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2009.09.045.

Development of hypoxia in a preclinical model of tumor micrometastases.

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Department of Radiation Biology, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.



Hypoxic regions have been shown to be a characteristic feature of a wide variety of human primary tumors, whereas the oxygenation status of subclinical micrometastases is in general unknown. The development of hypoxia in a xenograft model of microscopic metastases was investigated in this study.


U-25-GFP human melanomas growing in dorsal window chamber preparations in BALB/c nu/nu mice were used as a preclinical model of micrometastases. Tumor blood supply time and morphologic parameters of the vascular network were determined from first-pass imaging movies and vascular maps recorded by use of 155-kDa tetramethylrhodamine isothiocyanate-labeled dextran as a vascular tracer. Tumor hypoxia was assessed from immunohistochemical preparations of the imaged tissue by use of pimonidazole as a hypoxia marker.


Nearly half of the tumors had developed hypoxic regions when they reached a diameter of 2 to 3 mm. Tumors with multiple hypoxic foci showed a low growth rate, low blood flow velocity, high vessel tortuosity, high vessel segment length, and high vascular density, whereas tumors with a single hypoxic region showed a high growth rate, high blood flow velocity, low vessel tortuosity, low vessel segment length, and low vascular density. The tumors with hypoxic regions did not differ from those without hypoxia in any single parameter.


U-25-GFP xenograft models of vascularized human tumor micrometastases may develop hypoxic regions as a consequence of two distinctly different morphologic abnormalities in the vascular network: high resistance against blood flow (i.e., high vessel tortuosity and high vessel segment length) or low vascular density.

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