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Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Feb 1;19(3):721-30. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-12-2529. Epub 2012 Dec 18.

γ-H2AX foci formation as a pharmacodynamic marker of DNA damage produced by DNA cross-linking agents: results from 2 phase I clinical trials of SJG-136 (SG2000).

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  • 1CR-UK Drug-DNA Interactions Research Group, UCL Cancer Institute, Paul O'Gorman Building, Huntley Street, London, United Kingdom.



To evaluate γ-H2AX foci as a pharmacodynamic marker for DNA damage induced by DNA interstrand cross-linking drugs.


γ-H2AX foci formation was validated preclinically in comparison with the Comet assay, and evaluated pharmacodynamically in two phase I studies of different dosing schedules of the novel cross-linking agent SJG-136 (SG2000).


The measurement of γ-H2AX foci in human fibroblasts and lymphocytes in vitro was more than 10-fold more sensitive than Comet assay measurement of cross-linking, with peak γ-H2AX response 24 hours after the peak of cross-linking. In lymphocytes from a phase I study (every three week schedule), γ-H2AX foci were detectable 1 hour following the end of administration, and in all patients, maximum response was observed at 24 hours. Significant levels of foci were still evident at days 8 and 15 consistent with the known persistence of the DNA damage produced by this agent. In two tumor biopsy samples, foci were detected 4 hours postinfusion with levels higher than in lymphocytes. Extensive foci formation was also observed before the third dose in cycle 1 in lymphocytes from a second phase I study (daily × 3 schedule). These foci also persisted with a significant level evident before the second cycle (day 21). An increased γ-H2AX response was observed during the second cycle consistent with a cumulative pharmacodynamic effect. No clear relationship between foci formation and administered drug dose was observed.


This is the first use of γ-H2AX as a pharmacodynamic response to a DNA cross-linking agent in a clinical trial setting.

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