Carbon beam radiotherapy for cancer patients was initiated in Japan in June 1994. This study attempts to clarify the radiobiological effects of heavy ion beams. In this study, human cancer cell lines (RMG-1, MDA-MB231) and V79 cells were used. The cell killing was determined by colony forming assay, and mutation induction was determined by counting the number of 6-thioguanine resistant colonies (hprt locus mutation assay). The cell lines were irradiated with carbon (20 or 80 keV/microm) or neon beams (80 keV/microm). Carbon ions with a higher LET value (80 keV/microm) had an enhanced cytotoxic effect compared to those with a lower LET value (20 keV/microm). Carbon beams produced a slightly stronger cytotoxic effect than neon beams when irradiated at the same LET level (80 keV/microm), but the difference was not remarkable. The mutant fraction was significantly higher in all cell lines when they were irradiated with heavy ion beams, compared to the results for X-ray irradiation. The mutant fraction increased when the LET of the carbon beams increased. At equivalent LET values, the mutant fraction was lower for neon beams than for carbon beams. Fractionation of carbon beam irradiation had no effect on survival, but reduced the mutant fraction. Neon beams might be more appropriate for heavy ion therapy, especially when higher doses are being used. In addition, the fractionation of heavy ion beam administration might be appropriate for reducing the mutant fraction.
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