Radioresistance of Human Cancers: Clinical Implications of Genetic Expression Signatures

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Although radiotherapy is given to more than 50% of cancer patients, little progress has been made in identifying optimal radiotherapy - drug combinations to improve treatment efficacy. Using molecular data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), we extracted a total of 1016 cancer patients that received radiotherapy. The patients were diagnosed with head-and-neck (HNSC - 294 patients), cervical (CESC - 166 patients) and breast (BRCA - 549 patients) cancer. We analyzed mRNA expression patterns of 50 hallmark gene sets of the MSigDB collection, which we divided in eight categories based on a shared biological or functional process. Tumor samples were split into upregulated, neutral or downregulated mRNA expression for all gene sets using a gene set analysis (GSEA) pre-ranked analysis and assessed for their clinical relevance. We found a prognostic association between three of the eight gene set categories (Radiobiological, Metabolism and Proliferation) and overall survival in all three cancer types. Furthermore, multiple single associations were revealed in the other categories considered. To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first report suggesting clinical relevance of molecular characterization based on hallmark gene sets to refine radiation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number761901
Number of pages20
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 de Mey, Dufait and De Ridder.


  • TCGA
  • The Cancer Genome Atlas Program
  • breast cancer
  • cervical cancer
  • gene set analysis
  • head and neck (H&N) cancer
  • prognostic
  • radiotherapy


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