Radiobiological aspects of continuous low dose-rate irradiation and fractionated high dose-rate irradiation

Radiother Oncol. 1990 Sep;19(1):1-15. doi: 10.1016/0167-8140(90)90161-o.


The biological effects of continuous low dose-rate irradiation and fractionated high dose-rate irradiation in interstitial and intracavitary radiotherapy and total body irradiation are discussed in terms of dose-rate fractionation sensitivity for various tissues. A scaling between dose rate and fraction size was established for acute and late normal-tissue effects which can serve as a guideline for local treatment in the range of dose rates between 0.02 and 0.005 Gy/min and fraction sizes between 8.5 and 2.5 Gy. This is valid provided cell-cycle progression and proliferation can be ignored. Assuming that the acute and late tissue responses are characterised by alpha/beta values of about 10 and 3 Gy and a mono-exponential repair half-time of about 3 h, the same total doses given with either of the two methods are approximately equivalent. The equivalence for acute and late non-hemopoietic normal tissue damage is 0.02 Gy/min and 8.5 Gy per fraction; 0.01 Gy/min and 5.5 Gy per fraction; and 0.005 Gy/min and 2.5 Gy per fraction. A very low dose rate, below 0.005 Gy/min, is thus necessary to simulate high dose-rate radiotherapy with fraction sizes of about 2 Gy. The scaling factor is, however, dependent on the repair half-time of the tissue. A review of published data on dose-rate effects for normal-tissue response showed a significantly stronger dose-rate dependence for late than for acute effects below 0.02 Gy/min. There was no significant difference in dose-rate dependence between various acute non-hemopoietic effects or between various late effects. The consistent dose-rate dependence, which justifies the use of a general scaling factor between fraction size and dose rate, contrasts with the wide range of values for repair half-time calculated for various normal-tissue effects. This indicates that the model currently used for repair kinetics is not satisfactory. There are also few experimental data in the clinical dose-rate range, below 0.02 Gy/min. It is therefore necessary to verify further the presented scaling between fraction size and dose rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brachytherapy*
  • DNA Repair
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Humans
  • Radiation Tolerance
  • Radiotherapy Dosage*
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Swine
  • Whole-Body Irradiation*