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Clin Transl Radiat Oncol. 2018 Jan 31;9:23-29. doi: 10.1016/j.ctro.2018.01.004. eCollection 2018 Feb.

Do protons and X-rays induce cell-killing in human peripheral blood lymphocytes by different mechanisms?

Author information

Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences, PL-31342, Poland.
Department of Endocrinology, Nuclear Medicine Unit, The University Hospital, Kraków, Poland.
Radiation Research Program, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Department of Epidemiology, Chair of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Kraków, Poland.



Significant progress has been made in the technological and physical aspects of dose delivery and distribution in proton therapy. However, mode of cell killing induced by protons is less understood in comparison with X-rays. The purpose of this study is to see if there is any difference in the mode of cell-killing, induced by protons and X-rays in an ex vivo human peripheral blood lymphocyte (HPBL) model.

Materials and methods:

HPBL were irradiated with 60 MeV proton beam or 250-kVp X-rays in the dose range of 0.3-4.0 Gy. Frequency of apoptotic and necrotic cells was determined by the Fluorescein (FITC)-Annexin V labelling procedure, 1 and 4 h after irradiation. Chip-based DNA Ladder Assay was used to confirm radiation-induced apoptosis and necrosis. Chip-based DNA Ladder Assay was used to confirm radiation-induced apoptosis.


Ex vivo irradiation of HPBL with proton beams of 60 MeV or 250 kVp X-rays resulted in apoptotic as well as necrotic modes of cell-killing, which were evident at both 1 and 4 h after irradiation in the whole dose and time range. Generally, our results indicated that protons cause relatively higher yields of cell death that appears to be necrosis compared to X-rays. The analysis also demonstrates that radiation type and dose play a critical role in mode of cell-killing.


Obtained results suggest that X-rays and protons induce cell-killing by different modes. Such differences in cell-killing modes may have implications on the potential of a given therapeutic modality to cause immune modulation via programmed cell death (X-rays) or necrotic cell death (proton therapy). These studies point towards exploring for gene expression biomarkers related necrosis or apoptosis to predict immune response after proton therapy.


Apoptosis; Cell-killing modes; Human peripheral blood lymphocytes; Necrosis; Photon therapy; Proton biology; Proton therapy; Radiotherapy

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