Tissue and imaging biomarkers for hypoxia predict poor outcome in endometrial cancer
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Hypoxia is frequent in solid tumors and linked to aggressive phenotypes and therapy resistance. We explored expression patterns of the proposed hypoxia marker HIF-1α in endometrial cancer (EC) and investigate whether preoperative functional imaging parameters are associated with tumor hypoxia. Expression of HIF-1α was explored both in the epithelial and the stromal tumor component. We found that low epithelial HIF-1α and high stromal HIF-1α expression were significantly associated with reduced disease specific survival in EC. Only stromal HIF-1α had independent prognostic value in Cox regression analysis. High stromal HIF-1α protein expression was rare in the premalignant lesions of complex atypical hyperplasia but increased significantly to invasive cancer. High stromal HIF-1α expression was correlated with overexpression of important genes downstream from HIF-1α, i.e. VEGFA and SLC2A1 (GLUT1). Detecting hypoxic tumors with preoperative functional imaging might have therapeutic benefits. We found that high stromal HIF-1α expression associated with high total lesion glycolysis (TLG) at PET/CT. High expression of a gene signature linked to hypoxia also correlated with low tumor blood flow at DCE-MRI and increased metabolism measured by FDG-PET. PI3K pathway inhibitors were identified as potential therapeutic compounds in patients with lesions overexpressing this gene signature. In conclusion, we show that high stromal HIF-1α expression predicts reduced survival in EC and is associated with increased tumor metabolism at FDG-PET/CT. Importantly; we demonstrate a correlation between tissue and imaging biomarkers reflecting hypoxia, and also possible treatment targets for selected patients.