Initial results of hypoxia imaging using 1-α-d-(5-deoxy-5-[18F]-fluoroarabinofuranosyl)-2-nitroimidazole (18F-FAZA)

  • Ernst J. Postema
  • Alexander J. B. McEwan
  • Terence A. Riauka
  • Piyush Kumar
  • Dacia A. Richmond
  • Douglas N. Abrams
  • Leonard I. Wiebe
Original Article



Tumour hypoxia is thought to play a significant role in the outcome of solid tumour therapy. Positron emission tomography (PET) is the best-validated noninvasive technique able to demonstrate the presence of hypoxia in vivo. The locally developed PET tracer for imaging hypoxia, 1-α-d-(5-deoxy-5-[18F]-fluoroarabinofuranosyl)-2-nitroimidazole (18F-FAZA), has been shown to accumulate in experimental models of tumour hypoxia and to clear rapidly from the circulation and nonhypoxic tissues. The safety and general biodistribution patterns of this radiopharmaceutical in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC), small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) or non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), malignant lymphoma, and high-grade gliomas, were demonstrated in this study.


Patients with known primary or suspected metastatic HNSCC, SCLC or NSCLC, malignant lymphoma or high-grade gliomas were dosed with 5.2 MBq/kg of 18F-FAZA, then scanned 2–3 h after injection using a PET or PET/CT scanner. Images were interpreted by three experienced nuclear medicine physicians. The location and relative uptake scores (graded 0 to 4) of normal and abnormal 18F-FAZA biodistribution patterns, the calculated tumour-to-background (T/B) ratio, and the maximum standardized uptake value were recorded.


Included in the study were 50 patients (32 men, 18 women). All seven patients with high-grade gliomas showed very high uptake of 18F-FAZA in the primary tumour. In six out of nine patients with HNSCC, clear uptake of 18F-FAZA was observed in the primary tumour and/or the lymph nodes in the neck. Of the 21 lymphoma patients (15 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 6 with Hodgkin’s disease), 3 demonstrated moderate lymphoma-related uptake. Of the 13 lung cancer patients (12 NSCLC, 1 SCLC), 7 had increased 18F-FAZA uptake in the primary lung tumour. No side effects of the administration of 18F-FAZA were observed.


This study suggests that 18F-FAZA may be a very useful radiopharmaceutical to image hypoxia in the tumour types selected. Especially the high uptake by gliomas was encouraging. Given the good imaging properties, including acceptable T/B ratios in the tumour categories studied, 18F-FAZA could be considered as a very promising agent for assessing the hypoxic fraction of these tumour types.


Hypoxia Oncology Positron emission tomography 18F-FAZA 



The authors would like to thank the Regulatory Team – Margaret Landon, Sandra Gordey, Lai Schrader, Robert McQuarrie, and Merlita Lamadrid – of the Department of Oncologic Imaging at the Cross Cancer Institute for all their efforts collecting and processing the data. We would also like to thank the attending physicians of the Cross Cancer Institute, and Drs. Andrew Belch and Matthew Parliament in particular, for their ongoing support of this trial.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernst J. Postema
    • 1
  • Alexander J. B. McEwan
    • 1
  • Terence A. Riauka
    • 1
  • Piyush Kumar
    • 1
  • Dacia A. Richmond
    • 1
  • Douglas N. Abrams
    • 1
  • Leonard I. Wiebe
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of OncologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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