Knowledge of the molecular background of functional magnetic resonance (MR) images is required to fully exploit their potential in cancer management. We explored the prognostic impact of dynamic contrast enhanced MR imaging (DCE-MRI) parameters in cervical cancer combined with global gene expression data to reveal their underlying molecular phenotype and construct a representative gene signature for the relevant parameter. Based on 78 cervical cancer patients subjected to curative chemoradiotherapy, we identified the prognostic DCE-MRI parameter ABrix by pharmacokinetic analysis of pretreatment images based on the Brix model, where tumors with low ABrix appeared to be most aggressive. Gene set analysis of 46 tumors with pairwise DCE-MRI and gene expression data showed a significant correlation between ABrix and the hypoxia gene sets, whereas gene sets related to other tumor phenotypes were not significant. Hypoxia gene sets specific for cervical cancer created in cell culture experiments, including both targets of the hypoxia inducible factor (HIF1α) and the unfolded protein response (UPR), were the most significant. In the remaining 32 tumors, low ABrix was associated with upregulation of HIF1α protein expression, as assessed by immunohistochemistry, consistent with increased hypoxia. Based on the hypoxia gene sets, a signature of 31 genes that were upregulated in tumors with low ABrix was constructed. This DCE-MRI hypoxia gene signature showed prognostic impact in an independent validation cohort of 109 patients. Our findings reveal the molecular basis of an aggressive hypoxic phenotype and suggest the use of DCE-MRI to non-invasively identify patients with hypoxia related chemoradioresistance.
- Received March 21, 2012.
- Revision received June 26, 2012.
- Accepted July 25, 2012.
- Copyright © 2012, American Association for Cancer Research.