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Cancer Res. 1998 Aug 15;58(16):3547-50.

Identification of nonproliferating but viable hypoxic tumor cells in vivo.

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Medical Biophysics Department, British Columbia Cancer Research Centre, Vancouver, Canada.


We have used the combination of pimonidazole labeling of hypoxic cells, bromodeoxyuridine labeling of proliferating cells, and cell sorting based on Hoechst 33342 perfusion to directly study hypoxia and proliferation in human tumor xenografts and transplantable murine tumors in vivo. Hypoxia was largely confined to cells in regions with the least perfusion, although in tumors exhibiting transient blood flow, hypoxic cells were not as highly localized. Similarly, proliferation and hypoxia were mutually exclusive except in areas of a tumor subjected to transient changes in perfusion. By determining the clonogenic potential, pimonidazole labeling intensity, and radiosensitivity of sorted tumor cell subpopulations, we have provided direct evidence that pimonidazole identifies hypoxic tumor cells of therapeutic relevance in vivo. Given that pimonidazole exhibits few diffusion or delivery problems and no apparent cytotoxicity, it appears to be a versatile and useful label for hypoxic cells in solid tumors.

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