Background and Purpose:
Tumor hypoxia has been linked to tumor progression, the development of treatment resistance, and thus poor prognosis. Since anemia is a major factor causing tumor hypoxia, the association between blood hemoglobin concentration (cHb) and tumor oxygenation status has been examined.
Patients and Methods:
Published data on the relationship between pretreatment cHb values and tumor oxygenation (in terms of median pO2 values, hypoxic fractions) have been summarized. Pretreatment O2 tension measurements were performed in histologically proven experimental tumors, human breast cancers, squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck, and cancers of the uterine cervix and of the vulva. In order to allow for a comparison between solid tumors and normal tissues, pO2 measurements were also performed in healthy tissue in anemic and nonanemic patients. cHb was determined at the time of the pO2 measurements.
Based on current information from experimental and clinical studies there is increasing evidence that anemia is associated with a detrimental tumor oxygenation status. Increasing cHb values are correlated with significantly higher pO2 values and lower hypoxic fractions. Maximum tumor oxygenation in squamous cell carcinomas is observed at normal (gender-specific) cHb values (approximately 14 g/dl in women and approximately 15 g/dl in men). Above this “optimal” Hb range, the oxygenation status tends to worsen again. In anemic patients, tumor oxygenation is compromised due to a decreased O2 transport capacity of the blood. At the upper edge of the Hb scale, a substantial increase in the blood’s viscous resistance to flow in “chaotic” tumor microvessels is thought to be mainly responsible for the observed restriction of O2 supply.
Review of relevant clinical data suggests that a maximum oxygenation status in solid tumors is to be expected in the range 12 g/dl < cHb < 14 g/dl for women and 13 g/dl < cHb < 15 g/dl for men. Considering the “optimal” cHb range with regard to tumor oxygenation, the concept of “the higher, the better” is therefore no longer valid. This finding has potentially far-reaching implications in the clinical setting (e. g., inappropriate erythropoietin treatment of nonanemic tumor patients).