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BACKGROUND: Hypoxia imaging is a promising tool for targeted therapy but the links between imaging features and underlying molecular characteristics of the tumour have not been investigated. The aim of this study was to compare hypoxia biomarkers and gene expression in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) diagnostic biopsies with hypoxia imaged with 64Cu-ATSM PET/CT. METHODS: 64Cu-ATSM imaging, molecular and clinical data were obtained for 15 patients. Primary tumour SUVmax, tumour to muscle ratio (TMR) and hypoxic volume were tested for association with reported hypoxia gene signatures in diagnostic biopsies. A putative gene signature for hypoxia in OPSCCs (hypoxic volume-associated gene signature (HVS)) was derived. RESULTS: Hypoxic volume was significantly associated with a reported hypoxia gene signature (rho=0.57, P=0.045), but SUVmax and TMR were not. Immunohistochemical staining with the hypoxia marker carbonic anhydrase 9 (CA9) was associated with a gene expression hypoxia response (rho=0.63, P=0.01). Sixteen genes were positively and five genes negatively associated with hypoxic volume (adjusted P<0.1; eight genes had adjusted P<0.05; HVS). This signature was associated with inferior 3-year progression-free survival (HR=1.5 (1.0-2.2), P=0.047) in an independent patient cohort. CONCLUSIONS: 64Cu-ATSM-defined hypoxic volume was associated with underlying hypoxia gene expression response. A 21-gene signature derived from hypoxic volume from patients with OPSCCs in our study may be linked to progression-free survival.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





1057 - 1064


Adult, Aged, Biomarkers, Tumor, Carcinoma, Squamous Cell, Copper Radioisotopes, Female, Humans, Hypoxia, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Immunoenzyme Techniques, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasm Staging, Oropharyngeal Neoplasms, Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography, Prognosis, Radiopharmaceuticals, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction, Thiosemicarbazones, Transcriptome