Warenius, H. M., White, R., Peacock, J. H., Hanson, J., Britten, R. A. and Murray, D. The Influence of Hypoxia on the Relative Sensitivity of Human Tumor Cells to 62.5 MeV (p→Be) Fast Neutrons and 4 MeV Photons.

Fast neutrons have been used in the clinical radiation therapy of tumors largely because of experimental evidence that their cytotoxic effects are much less dependent on oxygen levels than those of low-LET photons. The potential therapeutic advantage of fast neutrons based on hypoxia alone can be calculated as the “hypoxic gain factor”, which is the ratio of the OERs for the fast-neutron compared to the photon beams. The hypoxic gain factor that is generally anticipated based on studies with established mammalian cell lines is about 1.6. However, surprisingly few studies have examined the influence of hypoxia on the fast-neutron radiosensitivity of human tumor cells of different histological types. For this reason, we have determined the OERs of five human tumor cell lines exposed to 62.5 MeV (p→Be) cyclotron-generated fast neutrons or 4 MeV photons from a clinical linear accelerator. The OERs for four chemotherapy-naive cell lines, HT29/5, Hep2, HeLa and RT112, were invariably greater for photons than for neutrons, but all of these values were lower than expected on the basis of the previous literature. Despite their low OERs, these cell lines showed hypoxic gain factors that were within the range of 1.31−1.63, indicating that such effects cannot entirely explain the disappointing clinical results obtained with fast neutrons. In contrast, comparison of the surviving fractions at clinically relevant doses (1.6 Gy of neutrons and 2.0 Gy of photons) for these four tumor cell lines suggested that little benefit should result from neutron treatment. Only the cisplatin-resistant OAW42-CP line showed a significant hypoxic gain factor by this method of analysis. We conclude that, at the dose fractions used in clinical radiation therapy, there may not be a radiobiological precedent for higher local control rates after fast-neutron irradiation of hypoxic tumor cells.

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