Proton Scanning and X-ray Beam Irradiation Induce Distinct Regulation of Inflammatory Cytokines in a Preclinical Mouse Model

Authors Nielsen S, Bassler N, Grzanka L, Swakon J, Olko P, Horsman MR, Sørensen BS
Source Int J Radiat Biol. 2020 Oct;96(10):1238-1244. Publicationdate 21 Sep 2020


Conventional X-ray radiotherapy induces a pro-inflammatory response mediated by altered expression of inflammation-regulating cytokines. Proton scanning and X-ray irradiation produce distinct changes to cytokine gene expression in vitro suggesting that proton beam therapy may induce an inflammatory response dissimilar to that of X-ray radiation. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether proton scanning beam radiation and conventional X-ray photon radiation would induce differential regulation of circulating cytokines in vivo.

Materials and methods

Female CDF1 mice were irradiated locally at the right hind leg using proton pencil beam scanning or X-ray photons. Blood samples were obtained from two separate mice groups. Samples from one group were drawn by retro-orbital puncture 16 months post irradiation, while samples from the other group were drawn 5- and 30-days post irradiation. Concentration of the cytokines IL-6, IL-1β, IL-10, IL-17A, IFN-γ, and TNFα was measured in plasma using bead-based immunoassays.


The cytokines IL-6, IL-1β, IL-10, IFN-γ, and TNFα were expressed at lower levels in plasma samples from proton-irradiated mice compared with X-ray-irradiated mice 16 months post irradiation. The same cytokines were downregulated in proton-irradiated mice 5 days post irradiation when compared to controls, while at day 30 expression had increased to the same level or higher. X-ray radiation did not markedly change expression levels at days 5 and 30.


The inflammatory response to proton and X-ray irradiation seem to be distinct as the principal pro-inflammatory cytokines are differentially regulated short- and long-term following irradiation. Both the development of normal tissue damage and efficacy of immunotherapy could be influenced by an altered inflammatory response to irradiation.