Persistence of micronuclei in lymphocytes of cancer patients after radiotherapy

Radiat Res. 2002 Jun;157(6):678-84. doi: 10.1667/0033-7587(2002)157[0678:pomilo];2.


To verify the applicability of the micronucleus (MN) yield in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) as a quantitative biodosimeter for monitoring in vivo ionizing radiation damage, we applied the cytokinesis-blocked micronucleus assay in PBLs of cancer patients treated with partial-body radiotherapy. Dosimetric information on these 13 patients represented a wide range in the number of fractions, cumulative tumor dose, total integral dose, and equivalent total-body absorbed dose. We found in PBLs of these patients that (1) the MN yield increased linearly with the equivalent total-body absorbed dose (r = 0.8, P = 0.002), (2) the distributions of the MN yields deviated significantly from Poisson, and (3) there was a general decline in MN yields with increasing length of follow-up, but with considerable variation between individuals. The average rate of decline was found to be linear and was correlated with the equivalent total-body absorbed dose (r = 0.7, P = 0.007). Further, at 19-75 months of follow-up time, seven patients showed higher MN yields than their respective levels before radiotherapy, indicating the persistence of radiation-induced residual cytogenetic damage. Our findings suggest that the MN yield in human PBLs offers a reliable acute and perhaps chronic biodosimeter for in vivo radiation dose estimation. After the completion of radiotherapy, the persistence of elevated MN yield in PBLs is a reflection of the surviving population of radiation-induced genetically aberrant cells.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Lymphocytes / radiation effects*
  • Male
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective / pathology
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective / radiation effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Time Factors