The responses of two heterogeneous human cancer cell lines and their derivative clones to graded single doses of X-rays were examined in vitro. One system consisted of the human colon carcinoma line DLD-1 and two subpopulations (clones A and D). The second system consisted of the human lung carcinoma line (LX1) and four subpopulations (LX1-1, LX1-2, LX1-3, and LX1-9). These subpopulations have previously been shown to be markedly heterogeneous in terms of such characteristics as karyotype, morphology, drug sensitivity, tumorigenicity, and expression of membrane glycoproteins (such as carcinoembryonic antigen and tumor colonic mucoprotein antigen). Exponentially growing cultures were irradiated with graded single doses of 100-kVp X-rays. Survival was assessed using colony formation as the end point, and responses from multiple experiments were fitted to the single-hit, multitarget equation of cell survival. Values for the mean lethal dose (Do, grays), quasithreshold dose (Dq, grays), and extrapolation number (n) were obtained. For the human colon adenocarcinoma system, these values for the three tumor lines were: DLD-1, 0.95, 2.34, and 11.7; clone A, 1.06, 2.23, and 8.20; and clone D, 1.08, 1.89, and 5.80. For the human lung carcinoma system, these values for the five sublines were: LX1, 1.14, 0.19, and 1.20; LX1-1, 0.96, 2.06, and 8.54; LX1-2, 0.96, 0.88, and 2.48; LX1-3, 0.68, 2.05, and 20.3; and LX1-9, 1.12, 0.00, and 1.00. These two human tumor systems therefore exhibit variability in their intrinsic sensitivity to X-irradiation. The data indicate that failure of some human carcinomas to respond to physical treatment modalities can be due to preexisting resistant subpopulations.


Research supported by Grants CA 25687, CA 23225, CA 13943, CA 20892, and CA 25631 from the National Cancer Institute, Department of Health and Human Services. Some of these data were presented at the Second Rome International Symposium on Biological Bases and Clinical Implications of Tumor Radioresistance, September 21 to 24, 1980, Rome, Italy.

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