Abstract: Within aggressive malignancies, there usually are the “hypoxic zones”—poorly vascularized regions where tumor cells undergo oxygen deficiency through inadequate blood supply. Besides, hypoxia may arise in tumors as a result of antiangiogenic therapy or transarterial embolization. Adapting to hypoxia, tumor cells acquire a hypoxia-resistant phenotype with the characteristic alterations in signaling, gene expression and metabolism. Both the lack of oxygen by itself and the hypoxia-responsive phenotypic modulations render tumor cells more radioresistant, so that hypoxic tumors are a serious challenge for radiotherapy. An understanding of causes of the radioresistance of hypoxic tumors would help to develop novel ways for overcoming this challenge. Molecular targets for and various approaches to radiosensitizing hypoxic tumors are considered in the present review. It is here analyzed how the hypoxia-induced cellular responses involving hypoxia-inducible factor-1, heat shock transcription factor 1, heat shock proteins, glucose-regulated proteins, epigenetic regulators, autophagy, energy metabolism reprogramming, epithelial–mesenchymal transition and exosome generation contribute to the radioresistance of hypoxic tumors or may be inhibited for attenuating this radioresistance. The pretreatments with a multitarget inhibition of the cancer cell adaptation to hypoxia seem to be a promising approach to sensitizing hypoxic carcinomas, gliomas, lymphomas, sarcomas to radiotherapy and, also, liver tumors to radioembolization.
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