Bladder tumours show a variable response to radiotherapy with only about 50% showing good local control; currently there is no test to predict outcome prior to treatment. We have used five bladder tumour cell lines (T24, UM-UC-3, TCC-SUP, RT112, HT1376) to investigate the potential of the alkaline comet assay (ACA) to predict radiosensitivity. Radiation-induced DNA damage and repair were compared to clonogenic survival. When the five cell lines were irradiated and initial DNA damage was plotted against cell survival, at all doses (0-6 Gy), a significant correlation was found (r(2)=0.9514). Following 4 Gy X-irradiation, all cell lines, except T24, showed a correlation between SF2 vs half-time for repair and SF2 vs residual damage at 5, 10, 20 and 30 min. The T24 cell line showed radioresistance at low doses (0-2 Gy) and radiosensitivity at higher doses (4-6 Gy) using both cell survival and ACA end points, explaining the lack of correlation observed for this cell line. These data indicate that initial DNA damage and residual damage can be used to predict for radiosensitivity. Our data suggest that predictive tests of radiosensitivity, appropriate to the clinical situation, may require the use of test doses in the clinical range.