Direct oxygen partial pressure (pO2) readings in breast cancers, in fibrocystic disease, and in the normal breast have been obtained using a novel technique which allows for the systematic evaluation of the oxygenation status as a function of pathological staging and histological grading. Measurements were performed in awake pre- and postmenopausal patients with well-defined arterial blood gas status.

The measuring procedure encompasses a computerized electrode movement in the tissue which avoids significant compression artifacts and allows routine measurement in human tumors before, during, and after treatment. Using this reliable technique, pO2 measurements in the normal breast and in fibrocystic disease resulted in oxygenation patterns which were characteristic for normal, adequately supplied tissues. The median pO2 values were 65 and 67 mm Hg, respectively, with no pO2 readings below 12.5 mm Hg in the normal breast, and ≤5 mm Hg in fibrocystic disease, respectively. In contrast, in breast cancers the median pO2 value was 30 mm Hg (pooled data for pathological stages T1-T4). To date, 6 of 15 breast cancers exhibited pO2 values between zero and 2.5 mm Hg, i.e., tissue areas with less than half-maximum radiosensitivity. The oxygenation pattern in breast cancers and the occurrence of hypoxia and/or anoxia did not correlate with either the pathological stages and histological grades or with a series of clinically relevant parameters. No significant differences were found between pre- and postmenopausal tumors and between lobular and ductal carcinomas. Tumor-to-tumor variability in the oxygenation pattern was more pronounced than intratumor heterogeneity. pO2 variations within a tumor cannot be predicted, e.g., as a function of the measuring site (tumor center versus periphery).

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Dedicated to Dr. med. h.c. Erwin Braun, an untiring sponsor of biomedical research, on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

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