The first step towards individualised radiotherapy dosing based on a patient’s genetic characteristics and sensitivity to treatment has been taken by an international team of scientists. Their research focused on patients with hypersensitivity to radiotherapy, drawn from the genetic pathways for the prediction of the effect of irradiation (GENEPI) study, which includes information on more than 8,000 patients.

They identified 33 patients who had severe, prolonged or late onset side-effects at very low radiation levels. Of these, 11 proved to be hypersensitive to radiation, underlining the rarity of the condition. The researchers say that currently, the dose of radiation generally used is governed by the response of the most radiosensitive patients, meaning that many may receive lower than optimal doses. They hope further genetic research in combination with other patient data might lead to the development of predictive models for individual sensitivity.

De Ruysscher D, Severin D, Barnes E et al. First report on the patient database of the identification of the genetic pathways involved in patients overreacting to radiotherapy: GENEPI-II. Abstract O-2007. Eur J Cancer Suppl 2009; 7(2): 153

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Originally published in the December 2009 edition of MIMS Oncology & Palliative Care.