Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are involved in diverse biological processes, including DNA damage repair, and are of interest as potential biomarkers of radiosensitivity. We investigated whether lncRNA radiosensitivity signatures could be derived for use in cancer patients treated with radiotherapy. Signature development involved radiosensitivity measurements for cell lines and primary tumor samples, and patient outcome after radiotherapy. A 10-lncRNA signature trained on radiosensitivity measurements in bladder cell lines showed a trend towards independent validation. In multivariable analyses, patients with tumors classified as radioresistant by the lncRNA signature had poorer local relapse-free survival (P = 0.065) in 151 patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer who underwent radiotherapy. An mRNA-based radiosensitivity index signature performed similarly to the lncRNA bladder signature for local relapse-free survival (P = 0.055). Pathway analysis showed the lncRNA signature associated with molecular processes involved in radiation responses. Knockdown of one of the lncRNAs in the signature showed a modest increase in radiosensitivity in one cell line. An alternative approach involved training on primary cervical tumor radiosensitivity or local control after radiotherapy. Both approaches failed to generate a cervix lncRNA radiosensitivity signature, which was attributed to the age of samples in our cohorts. Our work highlights challenges in validating lncRNA signatures as biomarkers in archival tissue from radiotherapy cohorts, but supports continued investigation of lncRNAs for a role in radiosensitivity.

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