Comparison of high dose rate, low dose rate, and high dose rate fractionated radiation for optimizing differences in radiosensitivities in vitro

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  • Comparison of High Dose Rate, Low DoseRate, and High Dose Rate FractionatedRadiation for Optimizing Differences in

    Radiosensitivities In Vitro

    Ruth C. Wilkins, Ph.D.,1* C.E. Ng, Ph.D.,2 and G.P. Raaphorst, Ph.D.21Health Canada, Radiation Protection Bureau, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    2Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    SUMMARY Radiotherapy is administered with the assumption that all patients respondsimilarly to radiation although radiosensitivity does vary from patient to patient, resultingin different degrees of early and late effects. Because the dose given to a patient is limitedby the response of normal tissue in the treatment field, it would be beneficial to determinethe sensitivity of this normal tissue prior to therapy. Previous studies to predict radiosen-sitivity have used surviving fractions after a single dose given in vitro, however, differencesin cell survival at this low level of kill are not easy to resolve. In this study, we set out toevaluate the use of alternative dose regimens which may better resolve differences inradiosensitivity. We have examined several radiation protocols for predictive value, in-cluding survival after high doses (6 Gy) at both high (112 cGy/min) and low (.882 cGy/min)dose rates and after fractionated doses of 2 Gy (6 fractions). A sensitive human fibroblastline (S11358) cultured from a patient showing severe effects after therapy is comparedwith a cell line (OMB1) cultured from an apparently normal subject. Differences betweenthese cell lines have been compared with those between two human melanoma cell lines(SKMEL3 and HT144) which have shown resistant and sensitive response to radiation invitro respectively. In both fibroblast and melanoma cell lines, the difference in the survivalof normal and sensitive cells increased with increasing dose regardless of whether irra-diation was delivered as low dose rate, high dose rate, or as fractionated doses. We proposethat radiation doses which more closely mimic clinical treatment are more suitable thansurviving fraction after 2 Gy (SF2) for in vitro evaluation of relative radiosensitivities of cellpopulations. Radiat. Oncol. Invest. 6:209215, 1998. 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

    Key words: predictive assay; fibroblasts; fractionated radiation; intrinsicradiosensitivity

    INTRODUCTIONIn radiotherapy, the dose-limiting factor is oftendamage to the normal tissue in the treatment field.Because there is considerable variation in normaltissue response between patients, the maximumdose is usually calculated from the tolerance of the

    small percentage of sensitive patients. Therefore, ifthese sensitive patients could be identified prior totreatment, the dose given to the remaining patientscould be increased. This increase in dose could po-tentially improve local control and cure to the non-sensitive patients by up to 20% [1].

    Work Performed at Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre, Ottawa, Ontario*Correspondence to: Ruth Wilkins, Ph.D., Health Canada, Radiation Protection Bureau, 775 Brookfield Rd., Postal

    Locator 6303B, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 1C1 Canada. Phone: (613) 941-7263; Fax: (613) 941-1734; E-mail: Ruth

    Received 2 February 1998; Revised 8 April 1998; Accepted 26 June 1998 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

    Radiation Oncology Investigations 6:209215 (1998)

  • There appears to be a genetic component toradiosensitivity, and in certain inherited syn-dromes, this genetic component dominates theoverall response to radiotherapy [2], as shown inpatients with ataxia telangiectasia (AT), which ischaracterized by hypersensitivity to ionizing radia-tion [3,4]. Skin fibroblasts and other cell types fromthese patients have also shown this sensitive re-sponse in vitro [5].

    In radiotherapy patients with no known ge-netic syndromes, there is clinical evidence of largeindividual differences in the radiosensitivity of nor-mal tissue [6]. If this variation also has a geneticcomponent, normal human fibroblasts should pro-vide a system to detect those individual differences.

    Several studies claim that differences in radio-sensitivity can be measured in vitro [7]. It has beenshown that the range of radiosensitivities in severalfibroblast and lymphocyte cultures is larger thancan be explained by sampling or methodology er-rors [8]. The level of radiosensitivity has also beencorrelated to the degree of the patients reactionafter treatment [911]. In order to measure radio-sensitivity, several endpoints have been used, in-cluding SF2 and a [10], SF3.5 [12], D0 and D10[11], and D1 [9], which have been measured afterboth high dose rate (HDR) and low dose rate(LDR) irradiation. However, there has been muchdebate whether the SF2 model, or models based onlow levels of survival, are relevant predictors ofradiosensitivity [13]. The wide distribution of SF2values for cells grown in culture from normal tissuehas been correlated with late reactions to radio-therapy [9,14,15], although a correlation to earlyreactions is still controversial [10,11,16].

    Our aim is to investigate whether differencesin survival levels measured in human melanomacell lines and normal fibroblasts would be moreresolvable after fractionated radiation comparedwith either HDR or LDR irradiation. This protocolmimics the external beam therapy, which can beresponsible for both early and late reactions.


    Cell Culture

    Melanoma Cell LinesSKMEL3 is an adherent, fibroblast-like, pig-mented, radioresistant melanoma cell line estab-lished from a 41-year-old female (ATCC). HT144is a nonpigmented, radiosensitive melanoma cellline established from a 29-year-old male (ATCC).Cells were cultured in a mixture of DMEM/F-12(Gibco) containing 7.5% fetal bovine serum (FBS)and 7.5% newborn calf serum (NCS) (Gibco),

    0.1 mM nonessential amino acids (Gibco), 20 mMHepes (Boehringer Mannheim), and 10 mMNaHCO3 (Sigma) in a humidified atmosphere of98% air, 2% CO2 at 37C. Cell lines were testedregularly for mycoplasma contamination.

    All experiments were carried out with conflu-ent cultures. For the HDR and fractionated irradia-tion, confluence was obtained by inoculating 5 105 cells into 4 mL of medium in a 25 cm2 flask onday 0, feeding the cells with fresh medium on day5, and using the cells for experiments on day 8. Thecells were in stable plateau-phase on the day of theexperiment as shown by their growth curves [17].For the LDR irradiations, 5 104 cells were platedin 1.3 cm2 glass vials on day 0, fed on day 5, andused for experiments on day 8.

    Primary CultureThe OMB1 cell line was grown from a 4 mm punchbiopsy obtained from the forearm of a 46-year-oldmale volunteer who gave informed consent afterthe nature of the procedure was fully explained.The tissue was transported in saline and imme-diately soaked for two 10 min periods in me-dium containing high concentrations of antibiotics(1000 IU/mL penicillin G sodium, 1000 mg/mLstreptomycin sulphate, 2.5 mg/mL amphotericin B)but without serum. The tissue was transferred to apetri dish and minced into small pieces. The pieceswere pressed to the bottoms of four 25 cm2 flasks(45 pieces per flask) containing 2 mL of mediumwith 20% FBS and 1 antibiotics (100 IU/mLpenicillin G sodium, 100 mg/mL streptomycin sul-phate, 0.25 mg/mL amphotericin B). The cultureswere observed daily until cell growth could be seenat which time the volume of medium was increasedto 4 mL. After the cultures were established, theserum levels were changed to 7.5% FBS and 7.5%NCS with no subsequent change in the growthcharacteristics. All experiments were done on cellswith passage numbers less than 10. The cultureswere fed every 5 days until there was enough cellgrowth to trypsinize and culture. All experimentswere carried out with confluent culture. For HDRirradiations, confluence was obtained by inoculat-ing 1 105 cells into a 25 cm2 flask in 4 mL ofmedium on day 0, feeding the cells with fresh me-dium on day 5, and using the cells for experimentson day 10. The cells were in stable plateau-phaseon the day of the experiment as shown by theirgrowth curves in Figure 1. For LDR irradiations, 5 103 cells were plated on day 0, fed on day 5, andused for experiment on day 10.

    The S11358 cell line was grown from a biopsyfrom a 33-year-old female patient with cervical

    210 Wilkins et al.: Optimizing Differences in Radiosensitivity

  • cancer who had severe chronic normal tissue injuryfollowing conventional irradiation [18]. The cells,already in culture, were obtained from the AtomicEnergy of Canada Limited, Chalk River. The cellswere maintained and experimented upon under thesame conditions as the OMB1 cell line.


    Cells were irradiated at a HDR using x-rays (150kVp, 1 mm Al filter) at a dose rate of 112 cGy/min.HDR irradiations were carried out at 4C in orderto minimize the amount of repair occurring duringthe irradiation procedure [17]. For LDR irradia-tions, cells were irradiated using 226Ra sources at adose rate of 0.88 cGy/min. Cells were kept at 37Cthroughout the irradiation. Fractionated irradiationswere performed using x-rays, as above, with 2 Gygiven three times daily with a minimum of 6 hrbetween irradiations. Six fractions were adminis-tered for a total of 12 Gy. Cells were held at 4Cduring the irradiation and incubated at 37C be-tween irradiations.

    Clonogenic Cell Survival

    Cell survival was measured by the colony formingassay. Confluent cells were trypsinized and platedat the appropriate number in 60 mm or 100 mmtissue culture dishes to achieve approximately 50colonies per dish. Dishes were incubated at 37Cfor 1114 days, stained, and colonies containingmore than 50 cells were counted. Each experimentwas repeated three times with the error bars repre-senting the standard error of the mean (S.E.M.).

    Method of Fitting Survival Curves

    The survival curves were fitted using the linearquadratic model, S 4 exp(-aD-bD2) by taking thenatural logarithm of the equation and fitting a sec-ond order polynomial to the equation lnS- 4 -aD-bD2. The fits were performed using a graphics pro-gram Grapher (Golden Software).

    Flow Cytometry

    The cell cycle distribution was examined duringfractionated radiation using propidium iodide stain-ing on a Coulter Epics XL flow cytometer. The cellcycle distribution was analyzed using the Multi-cycle program (Phoenix Flow Systems).


    The two melanoma cell lines, SKMEL3 andHT144, have been shown to be radioresistant andradiosensitive respectively [17,19]. Figures 2 and 3show their survival curves after HDR, LDR, andfractionated irradiation. The large difference intheir radiation responses is evident, even after lowdoses. These differences have been quantified inTable 1, which shows the surviving fractions of theresistant and sensitive cells after different doses ofeach radiation protocol. These values were takenfrom the fitted curves. The P value from the stu-dents t-test indicates the significance of the differ-ences between the cell lines. Table 1 shows thedifferences in survival of the SKMEL3 and HT144

    Fig. 2. Survival curves of melanoma cells lines after highdose rate (HDR) and low dose rate (LDR) irradiation. Thedata were fitted to the linear quadratic model. The error barsrepresent the S.E.M. of three independent experiments.

    Fig. 1. Growth curve of OMB1 and S11358 cells fed onday 5. The initial concentration of cells was 4 103 cells/cm2.

    Wilkins et al.: Optimizing Differences in Radiosensitivity 211

  • cells lines to be highly significant (P < .001) at alllevels for all three radiation protocols. The in-creased survival due to fractionated radiation, how-ever, allows survival to be measured after higherdoses (8 Gy) of radiation in which the differencebetween the two cell lines becomes even more sig-nificant (P < .0001).

    This method was then used to evaluate thedifferences in radiosensitivity between the two hu-man fibroblast lines cultured from skin biopsies.These two cell lines, OMB1 and S11358 came froma normal subject and radiosensitive patient respec-tively. Their radiation survival curves are shown inFigures 4 and 5. The differences in their radiosen-sitivities in vitro are much smaller than with themelanoma cell lines; however, the same trend ap-pears. The P value indicates that the difference be-tween the survival of the two cell lines is not sig-nificant for any radiation protocol up to 6 Gy. Frac-tionation, in this case, allowed survival to bemeasured after 12 Gy, at which time the P valuedecreased below 0.05, indicating a significant dif-ference between survival.

    Figures 6 and 7 show that the cell cycle dis-tributions of the melanoma and fibroblast cellsthroughout the fractionation experiment changedvery little.


    Much work has been done on tumor tissue grown invitro as a predictor of radiosensitivity and tumor T
































































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