By: Karl Brehwens

Opponent: Prof. Wolfgang Dörr, department of radiation oncology & Christian Doppler laboratory for medical radiation research in radiooncology, medical university of Vienna, Austria

Host: Prof. Ulf Rannug


This thesis focuses on how physical and biological factors influence the outcome of exposures to γ/X-rays. That the dose rate changes during real life exposure scenarios is well-known, but radiobiological data from exposures performed at increasing or decreasing dose rates is lacking. In paper I, it was found that an exposure where the dose rate decreases exponentially induces significantly higher levels of micronuclei in TK6 cells than exposures at an increasing or constantdose rate. Paper II describes the construction and validation of novel exposure equipment used to further study this “decreasing dose rate effect”, which is described in paper III. In paper I we also observed a radioprotective effect when cells were exposed on ice. This “temperature effect” (TE) has been known for decades but it is still not fully understood how hypothermia acts in a radioprotective manner. This was investigated in paper IV, where a multiparametric approach was used to investigate the underlying mechanisms. In paper V the aim was to investigate the role of biomarkers and clinical parameters as possible risk factors for late adverse effects to radiotherapy (RT). This was studied in a rare cohort of head-and-neck cancer patients that developed mandibular osteoradionecrosis (ORN) as a severe late adverse effect of RT. Biomarker measurements and clinical factors were then subjected to multivariate analysis in order to identify ORN risk factors. The results suggest that the patient’s oxidative stress response is an important factor in ORN pathogenesis, and support the current view that patient-related factors constitute the largest source of variation seen in the frequency of late adverse effects to RT.

In summary, this thesis provides new and important insights into the roles of biological and physical factors in determining the consequences of γ/X-ray exposures.


Keywords: Radiation biology, changing dose rates, cytogenetics, hypothermia, X-rays,
radiotherapy, osteoradionecrosis, biomarkers, oxidative stress, individual radiosensitivity.