Basal, oxidative and alkylative DNA damage, DNA repair efficacy and mutagen sensitivity in breast cancer

Mutat Res. 2004 Oct 4;554(1-2):139-48. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2004.04.001.


Impaired DNA repair may fuel up malignant transformation of breast cells due to the accumulation of spontaneous mutations in target genes and increasing susceptibility to exogenous carcinogens. Moreover, the effectiveness of DNA repair may contribute to failure of chemotherapy and resistance of breast cancer cells to drugs and radiation. The breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are involved in DNA repair. To evaluate further the role of DNA repair in breast cancer we determined: (1) the kinetics of removal of DNA damage induced by hydrogen peroxide and the anticancer drug doxorubicin, and (2) the level of basal, oxidative and alkylative DNA damage before and during/after chemotherapy in the peripheral blood lymphocytes of breast cancer patients and healthy individuals. The level of DNA damage and the kinetics of DNA repair were evaluated by alkaline single cell gel electrophoresis (comet assay). Oxidative and alkylative DNA damage were assayed with the use of DNA repair enzymes endonuclease III (Endo III) and formamidopyrimidine-DNA glycosylase (Fpg), recognizing oxidized DNA bases and 3-methyladenine-DNA glycosylase II (AlkA) recognizing alkylated bases. We observed slower kinetics of DNA repair after treatment with hydrogen peroxide and doxorubicin in lymphocytes of breast cancer patients compared to control individuals. The level of basal, oxidative and alkylative DNA damage was higher in breast cancer patients than in the control and the difference was more pronounced when patients after chemotherapy were engaged, but usually the level of DNA damage in these patients was too high to be measured with our system. Our results indicate that peripheral blood lymphocytes of breast cancer patients have more damaged DNA and display decreased DNA repair efficacy. Therefore, these features can be considered as risk markers for breast cancer, but the question whether they are the cause or a consequence of the illness remains open. Nevertheless, our results suggest that research on the mutagen sensitivity and efficacy of DNA repair could impact the development of new diagnostic and screening strategies as well as indicate new targets to prevent and cure cancer. Moreover, the comet assay may be applied to evaluate the suitability of a particular mode of chemotherapy to a particular cancer patient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkylating Agents / toxicity*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair*
  • Humans
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Oxidative Stress*


  • Alkylating Agents
  • Mutagens