A key challenge in radiotherapy is to maximize radiation doses to cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. As severe toxicity in a minority of patients limits the doses that can be safely given to the majority, there is interest in developing a test to measure an individual's radiosensitivity before treatment. Variation in sensitivity to radiation is an inherited genetic trait and recent progress in genotyping raises the possibility of genome-wide studies to characterize genetic profiles that predict patient response to radiotherapy. © 2009 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.