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Clinical and Experimental Medicine

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 177–190 | Cite as

Alkaline comet assay study with breast cancer patients: evaluation of baseline and chemotherapy-induced DNA damage in non-target cells

  • N. KopjarEmail author
  • I. Milas
  • V. Garaj-Vrhovac
  • M. Gamulin
ORIGINAL

Abstract

The sensitivity of the alkaline comet assay for the evaluation of baseline and treatment-induced DNA damage in white blood cells of breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy according to three conventional anthracycline- and cyclophosphamide-containing protocols was investigated. Additionally, baseline DNA damage in cancer patients was compared with the levels of DNA damage recorded in healthy women. Altogether 30 patients with diagnosed breast cancer and 30 female blood donors with no known familial history of breast cancer participated in the study. Alkaline comet assay was performed according to standard protocol and DNA migration in peripheral blood leukocytes was measured by a computer-based image analysis system. For each subject the frequency of “damaged” cells, i.e., long-tailed nuclei (LTN) with tail length exceeding 95th percentile for the considered parameter among controls, is also reported. Breast cancer patients had significantly increased background levels of DNA damage in their peripheral blood leukocytes as compared to healthy women. Prior to the chemotherapy, a majority of patients showed a statistically significant increase in the number of LTN compared to healthy blood donors. Marked interindividual variations in baseline DNA damage among patients were recorded, some of them related to the disease stage and status. The present study confirmed the alkaline comet assay as a sensitive technique able to detect significantly elevated DNA migration in blood cells of patients already one hour after completion of the first cycle of chemotherapy. Administration of antineoplastic drugs in three chemotherapy protocols studied induced a similar increase of primary DNA damage in nontarget cells. The evaluation of the LTN frequencies indicates the best response to the protocol containing cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil (CMF). Our results point to the significance of simultaneous evaluation of DNA migration and frequency of LTN in the same subject and approved the use of alkaline comet assay as a suitable method for the routine detection of critical DNA lesions produced after administration of antineoplastic drugs in the clinical settings.

Key words

Breast cancer Alkaline comet assay DNA damage Chemotherapy protocols Interindividual differences 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. Kopjar
    • 1
    Email author
  • I. Milas
    • 2
  • V. Garaj-Vrhovac
    • 1
  • M. Gamulin
    • 3
  1. 1.Mutagenesis UnitInstitute for Medical Research and Occupational HealthZagrebCroatia
  2. 2.The University Hospital for TumorsZagrebCroatia
  3. 3.University Hospital Center RebroZagrebCroatia

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