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Intrinsic radiosensitivity and DNA double-strand breaks in human cells

Journal title : Cancer Radiothérapie
Volume : 11
Issue : 3
Pagination : 129-142
Publication date : 01/05/2007

Document type > *Article de revue

Keywords > DNA double-strand breaks, DNA repair, radiosensitivity

Research Unit > IRSN

Authors > FORAY Nicolas, JOUBERT Aurélie

Publication Date > 01/05/2007


Among the large spectrum of DNA damage induced by radiation, DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are considered, to date, as the key-lesions responsible for the cell killing. However, although it was always intuitive to radiobiologists, such a conclusion has only been reached after technical developments and conceptual advances and remains consensual rather than demonstrated formally. In this article, we have reviewed the results that have lead to the conclusion that the assessment of successful DSB repair can be the basis of reliable assays predictive of the clinical response to radiotherapy and some chemotherapeutic treatments. We have discussed a number of technical artifacts, the biases due to the extrapolation of data obtained in yeast and rodent model systems to the human situation and the variety of phenotypes observed in human cells and in particular: 1) the most recent techniques developed, based on immunofluorescence, which have revolutionized our understanding of the molecular events occurring early after irradiation but have also raised the crucial questions about the choice of techniques to assess DSB repair and their specificity for different steps of the repair process ; 2) While the homologous recombination repair pathway is predominant in yeasts, its importance in human cells appears less obvious, and raises the problem that the existence of randomized repair events may produce many more errors in human cells than in small genome organisms ; 3) the impairment of DSB repair is observed in a plethora of genetic diseases, leading to radiosensitivity, immunodeficiency and sometimes cancer-proneness, but the low frequency and the pleiotropism of such diseases makes difficult the development of a single predictive assay. Therefore, although complete DSB repair appears to be crucial for cell survival, further research is still needed to provide innovative techniques fro measuring repair which can be successfully transferred to the clinic and used to ensure the avoidance of deleterious side-effects to cancer therapies.
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