Solid tumours contain poorly oxygenated cells, and these are disproportionately resistant to therapeutic radiation. Several methods of overcoming this problem have been used clinically, including the administration of hyperbaric oxygen during irradiation, radiotherapy with heavy nuclear particles such as neutrons from cyclotrons, optimum size and spacing of multiple doses of conventional radiation, and, most recently, chemical radiosensitisers. These radiosensitisers mimic the sensitising effect of oxygen and are active only against hypoxic cells. They do not, therefore, increase radiation response in well-oxygenated normal tissues. They are not rapidly metabollised and so can penetrate further than oxygen from the vascular capillaries and effectively reach the hypoxic cells in the tumour. Some of these drugs are of considerable clinical promise. The results of in vitro and in vivo studies with radiosensitisers are summarised and preliminary clinical work is described.

Adams, Dische, Fowler, Thomlinson, , , , , (1976). Hypoxic cell sensitisers in radiotherapy. Lancet (London, England), 1976 Jan;1(7952):186-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/54693