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PURPOSE: To study the relationship between the severity of late reactions to radiotherapy in breast cancer patients, and the extent of residual radiation-induced DNA damage, using a rapid assay of keratinocytes obtained directly from skin biopsies. METHODS AND MATERIALS: A review was made of 32 patients with breast cancer, treated uniformly by radiotherapy between 1983 and 1988, following breast-conserving surgery. Their late radiotherapy reactions were scored (9-14 years post-radiotherapy) using a modified LENT SOMA scale, and a 5-mm buttock skin punch biopsy was obtained. Intact skin was irradiated at room temperature, and after allowing 24 h for repair, the tissue was disaggregated and the cells processed for pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Residual DNA damage was expressed as the fraction of DNA released (FDR) following 150 Gy. RESULTS: Studies using flow cytometry on disaggregated breast skin showed that over 90% of the cells were keratinocytes. The PFGE assay was robust with low background FDRs in unirradiated skin samples (mean 3.2%) and a wide range of FDRs following irradiation from 11.5% to 26.6%. No correlation was found between the FDR at 150 Gy (FDR 150) and any of the late reaction scores or retrospective acute reaction scores. There was, however, a borderline significant correlation for family history and FDR 150 (p = 0.059). CONCLUSION: Rapid measurement of residual DNA damage in irradiated differentiated keratinocytes, the predominant cell population in skin biopsies, showed no correlation with the severity of symptomatic early or documented late reactions in a retrospectively studied group of 32 breast cancer patients.


Journal article


Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys

Publication Date





481 - 487


Adult, Aged, Analysis of Variance, Biopsy, Breast, Breast Neoplasms, Carcinoma, DNA, DNA Damage, Dose Fractionation, Radiation, Female, Humans, Keratinocytes, Middle Aged, Predictive Value of Tests, Radiation Injuries, Retrospective Studies, Severity of Illness Index, Skin