The drive toward personalized radiation therapy (RT) has created significant interest in determining patient-specific tumor and normal tissue responses to radiation. Raman spectroscopy (RS) is a non-invasive and label-free technique that can detect radiation response through assessment of radiation-induced biochemical changes in tumor cells. In the current study, single-cell RS identified specific radiation-induced responses in four human epithelial tumor cell lines: lung (H460), breast (MCF-7, MDA-MB-231), and prostate (LNCaP), following exposure to clinical doses of radiation (2-10 Gy). At low radiation doses (2 Gy), H460 and MCF-7 cell lines showed an increase in glycogen-related spectral features, and the LNCaP cell line showed a membrane phospholipid-related radiation response. In these cell lines, only spectral information from populations receiving 10 Gy or less was required to identify radiation-related features using principal component analysis (PCA). In contrast, the MDA-MB-231 cell line showed a significant increase in protein relative to nucleic acid and lipid spectral features at doses of 6 Gy or higher, and high-dose information (30, 50 Gy) was required for PCA to identify this biological response. The biochemical nature of the radiation-related changes occurring in cells exposed to clinical doses was found to segregate by status of p53 and radiation sensitivity. Furthermore, the utility of RS to identify a biological response in human tumor cells exposed to therapeutic doses of radiation was found to be governed by the extent of the biochemical changes induced by a radiation response and is therefore cell line specific. The results of this study demonstrate the utility and effectiveness of single-cell RS to identify and measure biological responses in tumor cells exposed to standard radiotherapy doses.

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