Hypoxia theranostics of a human prostate cancer xenograft and the resulting effects on the tumor microenvironment

Balaji Krishnamachary, Yelena Mironchik, Desmond Jacob, Eibhlin Goggins, Samata Kakkad, Francis Ofori, Louis Dore-Savard, Santosh Kumar Bharti, Flonne Wildes, Marie France Penet, Margaret E. Black, Zaver M. Bhujwalla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hypoxia is frequently observed in human prostate cancer, and is associated with chemoresistance, radioresistance, metastasis, and castrate-resistance. Our purpose in these studies was to perform hypoxia theranostics by combining in vivo hypoxia imaging and hypoxic cancer cell targeting in a human prostate cancer xenograft. This was achieved by engineering PC3 human prostate cancer cells to express luciferase as well as a prodrug enzyme, yeast cytosine deaminase, under control of hypoxic response elements (HREs). Cancer cells display an adaptive response to hypoxia through the activation of several genes mediated by the binding of hypoxia inducible factors (HIFs) to HRE in the promoter region of target gene that results in their increased transcription. HIFs promote key steps in tumorigenesis, including angiogenesis, metabolism, proliferation, metastasis, and differentiation. HRE-driven luciferase expression allowed us to detect hypoxia in vivo to time the administration of the nontoxic prodrug 5-fluorocytosine that was converted by yeast cytosine deaminase, expressed under HRE regulation, to the chemotherapy agent 5-fluorouracil to target hypoxic cells. Conversion of 5-fluorocytosine to 5-fluorouracil was detected in vivo by 19F magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Morphological and immunohistochemical staining and molecular analyses were performed to characterize tumor microenvironment changes in cancer-associated fibroblasts, cell viability, collagen 1 fiber patterns, and HIF-1α. These studies expand our understanding of the effects of eliminating hypoxic cancer cells on the tumor microenvironment and in reducing stromal cell populations such as cancer-associated fibroblasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-688
Number of pages10
JournalNeoplasia (United States)
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Cancer-associated fibroblasts
  • Collagen 1 fibers
  • Hypoxia
  • Imaging
  • Prodrug enzyme
  • Prostate cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research

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