Quantification of DNA repair capacity in whole blood of patients with head and neck cancer and healthy donors by comet assay

Daniel T. Saha, Bruce J. Davidson, Antai Wang, Allison J. Pollock, Roy A. Orden, Radoslav Goldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Comet assay has been used to estimate cancer risk by quantification of DNA damage and repair in response to mutagen challenge. Our goal was to adopt best practices for the alkaline comet assay to measure DNA repair capacity of white blood cells in whole blood of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC). The results show that initial damage by 10 Gy of gamma radiation expressed as percent DNA in comet tail was higher in stimulated lymphocytes (61.1 ± 11.8) compared to whole blood (43.0 ± 12.1) but subsequent repair was similar with comet tail of approximately 20% at 15 min and 13% at 45 min after exposure. Exposure of whole blood embedded in agarose from 5 to 10 Gy gamma radiation was followed by an approximately 70% repair of the DNA damage within 45 min with a faster repair phase in the first 15 min. Variability of the measurement was lower within repeated measurements of the same person compared to measurement of different healthy individuals. The repair during first 15 min was slower (p = 0.01) in ex-/non-smokers (41.0 ± 2.1%) compared to smokers (50.3 ± 2.7%). This phase of repair was also slower (p = 0.02) in HNSCC patients (36.8 ± 2.1%) compared to controls matched on age and smoking (46.4 ± 3.0%). The results of this pilot study suggest that quantification of repair in whole blood following a gamma radiation challenge is feasible. Additional method optimization would be helpful to improve the assay for a large population screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-62
Number of pages8
JournalMutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Comet assay
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck
  • Whole blood


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantification of DNA repair capacity in whole blood of patients with head and neck cancer and healthy donors by comet assay'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this