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A study was made of the neutral comet assay as a potential method for measuring normal cell radiosensitivity. Eleven fibroblast strains were studied comprising nine derived from vaginal biopsies from pretreatment cervical cancer patients and two strains from radiosensitive individuals. DNA double strand break (dsbs) dose-response curves for both initial and residual (20-h repair time) damage were obtained over the dose range 0-240 Gy, with slopes varying 3.2 and 8-fold respectively. Clonogenic cell survival parameters were available for all the cell strains following both high- and low-dose rate irradiation. There were no correlations between the dose-response slope of the initial level of DNA dsbs and parameters that mainly describe the initial portion of clonogenic radiation survival curves (SF2, alpha, D). A significant correlation (r = -0.63, P = 0.04) was found between the extent of residual DNA dsbs and clonogenicity for all 11 fibroblast strains. The parameter showing the highest correlation with fibroblast cell killing (D) for the nine normal fibroblasts alone was the ratio of initial/residual DNA dsb dose-response slope (r = 0.80, P = < 0.01). A significant correlation (r = -0.67, P = 0.03) with clonogenic radiosensitivity was also found for all 11 cell strains when using the ratio of initial/residual DNA dsb damage at a single dose of 180 Gy. This study shows that fibroblast radiosensitivity measured using the neutral comet assay correlates with clonogenic radiation survival parameters, and therefore may have potential value in predictive testing of normal tissue radiosensitivity.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





1366 - 1371


Cell Survival, Cesium Radioisotopes, DNA, DNA Damage, DNA Repair, Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation, Electrophoresis, Agar Gel, Female, Fibroblasts, Humans, Radiation Tolerance