Purpose/objective: To determine if the radiosensitivity of normal human skin fibroblasts, measured in early passage cultures, is significantly correlated with the degree of acute or late normal skin damage in patients treated for breast cancer with radiotherapy.
Methods and materials: In the 1970s, a series of breast cancer patients was treated at the Department of Oncology in Gothenburg, Sweden with postoperative irradiation to the parasternal region. Patients were treated bilaterally using different fractionation schedules and doses to the right and left fields. Peak acute reactions were scored on a six-point scale, and skin erythema was measured by reflectance spectrophotometry. Telangiectasia was graded over time on a six-point scale. In April 1992, two small skin biopsies were obtained from 22 patients in two treatment groups (i.e., four dose-fractionation schedules) and, using either delayed or immediate plating, fibroblast radiosensitivity was measured in early passage cultures by clonogenic survival, after high and low dose-rate irradiations. Survival at 2.0 Gy (SF2) was calculated from complete survival curves.
Results: To test assay reproducibility, SF2 values derived from paired biopsies of the same patient (12 cases) were compared. A reasonably good correlation (p = 0.075) was obtained for SF2s determined by high dose-rate irradiations with immediate plating, but not for delayed plating or low dose-rate treatments. The median coefficient of variation in the replicate SF2s after high dose-rate treatment and immediate plating was 13%, suggesting that the poor correlation in paired SF2 values is due to the magnitude of the uncertainty in SF2 relative to the overall spread in SF2 values between patients (CV = 28%). Individual SF2 values and averaged values from patients with data from two biopsies were compared with the acute and late clinical reactions. A significant negative correlation was found between SF2 and relative clinical response, but only when averaged high dose-rate SF2 values and telangiectasia scores were compared. There was no significant correlation between average SF2 values and acute responses or between individual SF2 measurements and either the acute or late clinical response.
Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that the degree of late telangiectasia is at least partially dependent upon the intrinsic cellular radiosensitivity of normal fibroblasts, but the relationship is not clear cut. Multiple replicate assays are necessary to obtain reliable estimates of fibroblast SF2 values using current techniques.