The effects of environmental low-dose irradiation on tolerance to chemotherapeutic agents



The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in April of 1986 continues to impact the environment on many different levels. Studies of epidemiological, environmental, and genetic impacts have been prolific since the accident, revealing interesting results concerning the effects of radiation. The long-tailed field mouse, Apodemus flavicollis, was collected from distinct localities near the Chernobyl site and evaluated based on in vivo responses to the current clinically employed chemotherapeutic agents bleomycin (BLM) and vinblastine (VBL), as well as the immune modulator lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Maximum tolerable doses of three different cancer drugs were administered to the rodents from three different lifestyles: native mice living and reproducing in a radioactive environment, native mice living and reproducing in an uncontaminated region, and laboratory-reared mice (Mus musculus BALB/c) with a known sensitivity to the chemical agents tested. The endpoints employed include micronucleus formation, immune cell induction, differential gene expression, and chemotherapeutic side effects such as lethargy and weight loss. In accordance with the well-studied phenomenon termed radio-adaptation, we observed varied tolerance to chemotherapeutic treatment dependent on history of ionizing radiation exposure. The results of the present study demonstrate a differential response to chemotherapeutic treatment with respect to previous levels of radiation exposure, suggesting a potential benefit associated with low-dose radiation exposure. Data reported herein could have a profound impact on the development of novel cancer treatments involving low-dose ionizing radiation. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:640–649. © 2010 SETAC