Potential of serum microRNAs as biomarkers of radiation injury and tools for individualization of radiotherapy

Transl Res. 2018 Nov;201:71-83. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2018.06.001. Epub 2018 Jun 19.


Due to tremendous technological advances, radiation oncologists are now capable of personalized treatment plans and deliver the dose in a highly precise manner. However, a crucial challenge is how to escalate radiation doses to cancer cells while reducing damage to surrounding healthy tissues. This determines the probability of achieving therapeutic success whilst safeguarding patients from complications. The current dose constraints rely on observational data. Therefore, incidental toxicity observed in a minority of patients limits the admissible dose thresholds for the whole population, theoretically narrowing down the curative potential of radiotherapy. Future tools for measurements of individual's radiosensitivity before and during treatment would allow proper treatment personalization. Variation in tissue tolerance is at least partially genetically-determined and recent progress in the field of molecular biology raises the possibility that novel assays will allow to predict the response to ionizing radiation. Recently, microRNAs have garnered interest as stable biomarkers of tumor radiation response and normal-tissue toxicity. Preclinical studies in mice and nonhuman primates have shown that serum circulating microRNAs can be used to accurately distinguish pre- and postirradiation states and predict the biological impact of high-dose irradiation. First reports from human studies are also encouraging, however biology-driven precision radiation oncology, which tailors treatment to individual patient's needs, still remains to be translated into clinical studies. In this review, we summarize current knowledge about the potential of serum microRNAs as biodosimeters and biomarkers for radiation injury to lung and hematopoietic cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Precision Medicine
  • Proteomics
  • Radiation Exposure
  • Radiation Injuries / blood
  • Radiation Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Radiation Tolerance
  • Translational Research, Biomedical


  • Biomarkers
  • Genetic Markers
  • MicroRNAs