Radiation therapy is a key modality in the treatment of cancer. Substantial progress has been made in unraveling the molecular events which underpin the responses of malignant and surrounding normal tissues to ionizing radiation. An understanding of the genes involved in processes such as DNA double-strand break repair, DNA damage response, cell-cycle control, apoptosis, cellular antioxidant defenses, and cytokine production, has evolved toward examination of how genetic variants, most often, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), may influence interindividual radioresponse. Experimental approaches, such as candidate SNP-association studies, genome-wide association studies, and massively parallel sequencing are being proposed to address these questions. We present a focused review of the evidence supporting an association between SNPs in DNA repair genes and radioresponse in normal tissues and tumors. Although preliminary results indicate possible associations, there are methodological weaknesses in many of the studies, and independent validation of SNPs as biomarkers of radioresponse in much larger cohorts will likely require research cooperation through international consortia.
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