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Radiotherapy (ionising radiation; IR) is utilised in the treatment of ~50% of all human cancers, and where the therapeutic effect is largely achieved through DNA damage induction. In particular, complex DNA damage (CDD) containing two or more lesions within one to two helical turns of the DNA is a signature of IR and contributes significantly to the cell killing effects due to the difficult nature of its repair by the cellular DNA repair machinery. The levels and complexity of CDD increase with increasing ionisation density (linear energy transfer, LET) of the IR, such that photon (X-ray) radiotherapy is deemed low-LET whereas some particle ions (such as carbon ions) are high-LET radiotherapy. Despite this knowledge, there are challenges in the detection and quantitative measurement of IR-induced CDD in cells and tissues. Furthermore, there are biological uncertainties with the specific DNA repair proteins and pathways, including components of DNA single and double strand break mechanisms, that are engaged in CDD repair, which very much depends on the radiation type and associated LET. However, there are promising signs that advancements are being made in these areas and which will enhance our understanding of the cellular response to CDD induced by IR. There is also evidence that targeting CDD repair, particularly through inhibitors against selected DNA repair enzymes, can exacerbate the impact of higher LET, which could be explored further in a translational context.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Molecular Sciences



Publication Date





4920 - 4920