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A test for sensitivity of normal tissue to radiation damage?

Researchers in Denmark have identified specific changes in the basic building blocks of DNA that can affect how sensitive a patient is to radiotherapy. Their findings offer a glimmer of hope that it might be possible to develop gene-based predictive tests that would enable doctors to work out the highest dose a patient could tolerate, thereby improving the efficacy of radiotherapy treatment.

Dr Nicolaj Andreassen told a news conference at ECCO12 The European Cancer Conference that he and his colleagues had studied five genes that were known to be involved in the body's response to radiation. They had looked at the sequence of the four different nucleotides (A, T, G and C) that make up the DNA of each gene and found particular places in the genetic sequence where the sequence varied from the norm in a way that could affect the proteins that the gene was responsible for coding for (or making).

The spots on the genes where these variations are found are called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and they represent sites where a number of people have a nucleotide that is different to the nucleotide that most people would have for instance, a T instead of a C. SNPs mean that certain people may have a protein that works in a different way to the corresponding protein in other people, and these differences in protein function contribute to making us different to one another and with bodies that behave in different ways to external challenges such as radiotherapy.

Dr Andreassen, a research fellow at the Department of Experimental Clinical Oncology at Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, found that in 41 women treated with radiotherapy after a mastectomy between 1978 and 1982, five SNPs in four genes correlated with different levels of two types of radiation damage: subcutaneous fibrosis (scarring under the skin) and telangiectasia (an increase in small blood vessels under the skin).

The XRCC1 and XRCC3 genes code for proteins invo
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Contact: Margaret Willson
m.willson@mwcommunication.org.uk
45-3252-4163
Federation of European Cancer Societies
22-Sep-2003


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