Tumour micro-environment in early prostate cancer managed by surveillance
Dr Chris Parker email@example.com
Institute of Cancer Research
The natural history of early prostate cancer is highly variable.
The challenge is to distinguish between the majority of cases destined
to have no clinical impact, from the minority that, if untreated,
would progress to symptomatic disease. Assessment of tumour micro-environment
may improve prediction of early prostate cancer behaviour.
Hypoxia is a mediator of malignant progression, with mechanisms
including increased genomic instability, resistance to apoptosis,
and expression of angiogenic factors. In a range human cancers,
the degree of tumour hypoxia has been shown to be a significant
determinant of outcome, independent of established clinical prognostic
factors. Two polarographic electrode studies of human prostate cancer
oxygenation have found similar levels of hypoxia to that seen in
other cancer types. For example, in 55 patients with localised disease,
Parker et al. observed a median pO2 of 4.9 mmHg (figure 1).
The polarographic electrode (figure 2) is currently the gold
standard method for measuring tumour oxygenation, but its
use is technically demanding, and limited to accessible tumours.
There is, therefore, considerable interest in the development
of alternative methods of determining tumour oxygenation,
which could become a routine part of clinical practice.
A wide range of imaging techniques have been used to study the
tumour micro-environment, but there is little data concerning their
reproducibility and their validity as measures of oxygenation and
angiogenesis. DCE MRI (figure 3)
involves the intravenous injection of a contrast agent, followed
by fast MRI routines to assess blood volume, perfusion and vessel
permeability within the tissue of interest. BOLD MRI (figure 4)
relies on the different magnetic properties of oxy- and deoxy-haemoglobin.
Gradient echo MR sequences may be designed to be sensitive to the
blood deoxy-haemoglobin concentration, which is oxygenation-dependent.
An initial study of 25 men on active surveillance for early prostate
cancer is now open (figure 5)
The first milestone will be to demonstrate the reproducibility
of the MRI techniques, and their validity as measures of tumour
microenvironment with respect to polarographic electrode measurements
and microvessel density. A subsequent study is planned to analyse
the relationship between functional imaging results and clinical
outcome. Imaging techniques to assess the tumour micro-environment
may also enable improved radiotherapy targetting, and provide a
means to test the activity of therapeutic agents designed to exploit
the tumour micro-environment.