Background: Because only a fraction of smokers develop neoplastic lesions, host factors may affect their susceptibility to the carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoke. Benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE) is the metabolic product of benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), a constituent of tobacco smoke. Therefore, BPDE sensitivity may shed some light on smoking-related carcinogenesis.
Methods: First, differential BPDE sensitivity was tested in five lymphoblastoid cell lines. Then sensitivity to BPDE and bleomycin (an excellent lung carcinoma risk predictor) was tested in parallel in the lymphocytes of 57 lung carcinoma cases and 82 controls.
Results: The optimal BPDE treatment duration was 24 hours. The xeroderma pigmentosum cell line was the most sensitive, followed by head and neck cancer, ataxia telangiectasia, and normal cells. The mean breaks per cell for cases and controls were 0.78 and 0.46, respectively (P < 0.0001). BPDE sensitivity was significantly associated with lung carcinoma, with an odds ratio (OR) of 7.26, compared with an OR of 4.56 for bleomycin sensitivity. There was also a dose-response correlation between the quartiles of BPDE-induced breaks and lung carcinoma risk, with ORs of 2.39, 3.12, and 15.03. It is noteworthy that individuals who were sensitive to both BPDE and bleomycin had a significantly increased OR of 38.36.
Conclusions: BPDE sensitivity may be a biologic marker to identify individuals who are susceptible to the carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoke. BPDE and bleomycin sensitivity might represent different repair or sensitivity pathways; however, when these assays are used in parallel, they might refine our ability to identify high risk individuals.