Flash proton radiotherapy spares normal epithelial and mesenchymal tissues while preserving sarcoma response

Anastasia Velalopoulou, Ilias V. Karagounis, Gwendolyn M. Cramer, Michele M. Kim, Giorgos Skoufos, Denisa Goia, Sarah Hagan, Ioannis I. Verginadis, Khayrullo Shoniyozov, June Chiango, Michelle Cerullo, Kelley Varner, Lutian Yao, Ling Qin, Artemis G. Hatzigeorgiou, Andy J. Minn, Mary Putt, Matthew Lanza, Charles Antoine Assenmacher, Enrico RadaelliJennifer Huck, Eric Diffenderfer, Lei Dong, James Metz, Constantinos Koumenis, Keith A. Cengel, Amit Maity, Theresa M. Busch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


In studies of electron and proton radiotherapy, ultrahigh dose rates of FLASH radiotherapy appear to produce fewer toxicities than standard dose rates while maintaining local tumor control. FLASHproton radiotherapy (F-PRT) brings the spatial advantages of PRT to FLASH dose rates (>40 Gy/second), making it important to understand if and how F-PRT spares normal tissues while providing antitumor efficacy that is equivalent to standard-proton radiotherapy (S-PRT). Here we studied PRT damage to skin and mesenchymal tissues of muscle and bone and found that F-PRT of the C57BL/6 murine hind leg produced fewer severe toxicities leading to death or requiring euthanasia than S-PRT of the same dose. RNA-seq analyses of murine skin and bone revealed pathways upregulated by S-PRT yet unaltered by F-PRT, such as apoptosis signaling and keratinocyte differentiation in skin, as well as osteoclast differentiation and chondrocyte development in bone. Corroborating these findings, F-PRT reduced skin injury, stem cell depletion, and inflammation, mitigated late effects including lymphedema, and decreased histopathologically detected myofiber atrophy, bone resorption, hair follicle atrophy, and epidermal hyperplasia. F-PRT was equipotent to S-PRT in control of two murine sarcoma models, including at an orthotopic intramuscular site, thereby establishing its relevance to mesenchymal cancers. Finally, S-PRT produced greater increases in TGFb1 in murine skin and the skin of canines enrolled in a phase I study of F-PRT versus S-PRT. Collectively, these data provide novel insights into F-PRT-mediated tissue sparing and support its ongoing investigation in applications that would benefit fromthis sparing of skin and mesenchymal tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4808-4821
Number of pages14
JournalCancer Research
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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