Radiobiological effects of hypoxia-dependent uptake of 64Cu-ATSM: enhanced DNA damage and cytotoxicity in hypoxic cells

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PURPOSE: Hypoxia occurs frequently in cancers and can lead to therapeutic resistance due to poor perfusion and loss of the oxygen enhancement effect. (64)Cu-ATSM has shown promise as a hypoxia diagnostic agent due to its selective uptake and retention in hypoxic cells and its emission of positrons for PET imaging. (64)Cu also emits radiotoxic Auger electrons and beta(-) particles and may therefore exhibit therapeutic potential when concentrated in hypoxic tissue.

METHODS: MCF-7 cells were treated with 0-10 MBq/ml (64)Cu-ATSM under differing oxygen conditions ranging from normoxia to severe hypoxia. Intracellular response to hypoxia was measured using Western blotting for expression of HIF-1alpha, while cellular accumulation of (64)Cu was measured by gamma counting. DNA damage and cytotoxicity were measured with, respectively, the Comet assay and clonogenic survival.

RESULTS: (64)Cu-ATSM uptake in MCF-7 cells increased as atmospheric oxygen decreased (up to 5.6 Bq/cell at 20.9% oxygen, 10.4 Bq/cell at 0.1% oxygen and 26.0 Bq/cell at anoxia). Toxicity of (64)Cu-ATSM in MCF-7 cells also increased as atmospheric oxygen decreased, with survival of 9.8, 1.5 and 0% in cells exposed to 10 MBq/ml at 20.9, 0.1 and 0% oxygen. The Comet assay revealed a statistically significant increase in (64)Cu-ATSM-induced DNA damage under hypoxic conditions.

CONCLUSION: The results support a model in which hypoxia-enhanced uptake of radiotoxic (64)Cu induces sufficient DNA damage and toxicity to overcome the documented radioresistance in hypoxic MCF-7 cells. This suggests that (64)Cu-ATSM and related complexes have potential for targeted radionuclide therapy of hypoxic tumours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-338
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean journal of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival
  • DNA Damage
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Oxygen
  • Radiobiology
  • Thiosemicarbazones


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