Radioprotection by antioxidants

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000;899:44-60.


The role of reactive oxygen species in ionizing radiation injury and the potential of antioxidants to reduce these deleterious effects have been studied in animal models for more than 50 years. This review focuses on the radioprotective efficacy and the toxicity in mice of phosphorothioates such as WR-2721 and WR-151327, other thiols, and examples of radioprotective antioxidants from other classes of agents. Naturally occurring antioxidants, such as vitamin E and selenium, are less effective radioprotectors than synthetic thiols but may provide a longer window of protection against lethality and other effects of low dose, low-dose rate exposures. Many natural antioxidants have antimutagenic properties that need further examination with respect to long-term radiation effects. Modulation of endogenous antioxidants, such as superoxide dismutase, may be useful in specific radiotherapy protocols. Other drugs, such as nimodipine, propranolol, and methylxanthines, have antioxidant properties in addition to their primary pharmacological activity and may have utility as radioprotectors when administered alone or in combination with phosphorothioates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / adverse effects
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / adverse effects
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / pharmacology
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / adverse effects
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / adverse effects
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / pharmacology


  • Antioxidants
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds