Selenium does not affect radiosensitivity of breast cancer cell lines

Radiat Environ Biophys. 2019 Aug;58(3):433-438. doi: 10.1007/s00411-019-00801-5. Epub 2019 Jun 14.


Supplementation with the antioxidant selenium is frequently performed in breast cancer patients to protect the normal tissue from radiation-induced side effects. However, concerns exist whether selenium also protects tumor cells from radiation-induced cell kill and thereby reduces the efficacy of radiotherapy. In this work, the effect of selenium administration on the radiosensitivity of breast cancer cells was evaluated in vitro. Physiological relevant selenium concentrations (70 and 140 µg/l) did not affect DNA double-strand breaks (γH2AX foci) after 4-Gy X-ray irradiation. Also apoptosis (caspase 3/7) after irradiation with 10 Gy was not influenced by selenium treatment in MDA-MB-231 and MCF7 cells. Most importantly, selenium supplementation did not impair the clonogenic survival of the breast cancer cell lines after irradiation (0, 2, 4, 6, 8 Gy). The data suggest that physiological relevant selenium concentrations administered in combination with radiation therapy do not deteriorate the efficacy of radiotherapy in breast cancer patients. However, randomized clinical trials comparing the effectiveness of radiotherapy and the associated side effects in patients with and without selenium supplementation are recommended.

Keywords: Antioxidant; Breast cancer; Radiation; Radiosensitivity; Selenium; Supplementation.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Radiation Tolerance / drug effects*
  • Selenium / chemistry*


  • Selenium