Development of a portable hypoxia chamber for ultra-high dose rate laser-driven proton radiobiology applications

Chaudhary, Pankaj and Gwynne, Deborah Caroline and Odlozilik, Boris and McMurray, Aaron and Milluzzo, Giuliana and Maiorino, Carla and Doria, Domenico and Ahmed, Hamad and Romagnani, Lorenzo and Alejo, Aaron and Padda, Hersimerjit and Green, James and Carroll, David and Booth, Nicola and McKenna, Paul and Kar, Satyabrat and Petringa, Giada and Catalano, Roberto and Cammaratta, Francesco P and Cirrone, Giuseppe Antonio Pablo and McMahon, Stephen J and Prise, Kevin M. and Borghesi, Marco (2022) Development of a portable hypoxia chamber for ultra-high dose rate laser-driven proton radiobiology applications. Radiation Oncology. (

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Background: There is currently significant interest in assessing the role of oxygen in the radiobiological effects at ultra-high dose rates. Oxygen modulation is postulated to play a role in the enhanced sparing effect observed in FLASH radiotherapy, where particles are delivered at 40-1000 Gy/s. Furthermore, the development of laser-driven accelerators now enables radiobiology experiments in extreme regimes where dose rates can exceed 10^9 Gy/s, and predicted oxygen depletion effects on cellular response can be tested. Access to appropriate experimental environments, allowing measurements under controlled oxygenation conditions, is a key requirement for these studies. We report on the development and application of a bespoke portable hypoxia chamber specifically designed for experiments employing laser-driven sources, but also suitable for comparator studies under FLASH and conventional irradiation conditions. Materials and Methods: We used oxygen concentration measurements to test the induction of hypoxia and the maintenance capacity of the chambers. Cellular hypoxia induction was verified using hypoxia inducible factor-1α immunostaining. Calibrated radiochromic films and GEANT-4 simulations verified the dosimetry variations inside and outside the chambers. We irradiated hypoxic human skin fibroblasts (AG01522B) and patient-derived glioblastoma (E2) cancer stem cells with laser-driven protons, conventional protons and reference 225 kVp X-rays to quantify DNA DSB damage and repair under hypoxia. We further measured the oxygen enhancement ratio for cell survival exposed to cyclotron-accelerated protons and X-rays in the normal fibroblast and radioresistant GBM stem cells. Results: Oxygen measurements showed that our chambers maintained a radiobiological hypoxic environment for at least 45 minutes and pathological hypoxia for up to 24 hrs after disconnecting the chambers from the gas supply. We observed a significant reduction in the 53BP1 foci induced by laser-driven protons, conventional protons and X-rays in the hypoxic cells compared to normoxic cells at 30 minutes post-irradiation. Under hypoxic irradiations, the Laser-driven protons induced significant residual DNA DSB damage in hypoxic AG01522 cells compared to the conventional dose rate protons suggesting an important impact of these extreme high dose-rate exposures. We obtained an oxygen enhancement ratio (OER) of 2.1 ± 0.108 and 2.501 ±0.125 respectively for the AG01522 and patient derived GBM stem cells for the X-rays using our hypoxia chambers for irradiation. Conclusion:We demonstrated the design and application of portable hypoxia chambers for studying cellular radiobiological endpoints after laser-driven protons at ultra-high dose, conventional protons and X-ray exposures. Good levels of reduced oxygen concentration could be maintained in the absence of external gassing to quantify hypoxic effects and the data obtained provided an indication of an enhanced residual DNA DSB damage under hypoxic conditions at ultra-high dose rate compared to the conventional protons or X-rays.