Accelerated growth of tumor clonogens during the course of fractionated irradiation has been considered one of the major causes of radiation treatment failure. Alterations in clonogen growth rate could occur through three basic mechanisms: changes in cell-loss factor, changes in cell-cycle time, and recruitment of previously quiescent cells into the proliferative pool. This study was designed to assess changes in the cell-cycle time of clonogens of a murine fibrosarcoma during fractionated irradiation using an artificial pulmonary micrometastasis model. Lung colonies of various ages (4 h, 1 day, or 4 days) were exposed to single doses of irradiation ranging from 5-13 Gy; the fraction of surviving colonies was used to determine the preirradiation growth kinetics. The growth kinetics during fractionated irradiation was derived from colony-survival data of 4-day-old micrometastasis exposed to single doses or to 2, 5, 9, and 15 fractions separated by 4, 12, or 24-h intervals. The size of dose fractions used ranged from 1.7 to 14 Gy. The estimated clonogen doubling times before irradiation and during overall treatment periods of up to 14 days were 0.71 and 1.1 days, respectively. This significant (P < 0.0001) increase in the doubling time was most likely a consequence of lengthening of the overall cell-cycle time of the clonogens by radiation-induced division delay. This observation suggests that accelerated growth, when it occurs in some tumors during fractionated treatment, is the result of a decreased cell-loss factor or recruitment of quiescent cells, but not a shortening of the cell-cycle time of the clonogens.

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