Between January 1985 and December 1986, 811 patients were treated for carcinoma of the breast at the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy by an identical protocol. Of these 811 patients, five patients (0.6%) were identified as having an unusually sensitive clinical response to routine external beam irradiation. This unusual clinical response was characterized by severe skin erythema and edema during the first few weeks of treatment, requiring treatment breaks. Skin fibroblast cell strains were established from these five women as well as from six women with a normal clinical response to breast irradiation (chosen at random from the population of 811 patients). Radiation survival parameters were determined by a colony formation assay from complete survival curves in coded and blinded samples. Cells from the sensitive patients were significantly more sensitive to the cytotoxic effects of radiation in vitro as determined by the parameters D0, DĖ„,$D_{10}$, and n, than were the strains derived from patients with a normal response. We conclude that an unusually severe response to standard fractionated radiotherapy may be associated with greater intrinsic radiation sensitivity of the individual's somatic cells.

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