Radiobiology and Radiotherapy
Radiation therapy is used in the treatment of more than 60% of all cancer patients in the United States. The use of radiation therapy is increasing because recent advances in the field have made radiation treatments even more effective while at the same time reducing side effects on healthy tissue. Advances in radiation therapy have been driven by better knowledge of how cancer cells and healthy cells respond to radiation so that tailored therapies can be devised. Improvements in imaging of tumors, combined with increased precision of radiation treatment machines, also have helped produce improved therapies and better outcomes.
The Radiobiology and Radiotherapy Program at Yale Cancer Center is devoted to making advances in these areas. The program has mounted a broadly based research effort in radiation therapy, radiation biology, and radiological physics and related fields of tumor biology, with the long-term goal of improving the results of cancer treatment in general and radiation therapy in particular. It is the intent to have a balanced effort that covers a broad spectrum of activity from the molecular to the clinical level.
Some of the key themes of the program include studies of DNA repair pathways to better elucidate how cancer cells are killed by radiation. This has been a traditional strength of the program; in fact, DNA repair as a biological process was first discovered in this program at Yale. Another major thrust is the investigation of tumor hypoxia. Tumors as they grow have abnormal blood vessels and therefore develop regions of low oxygen. The program has a major focus on the development of hypoxia-targeted cancer therapies in both laboratory-based efforts and in clinical trials. Translational efforts include improvements in radiation dosimetry, tumor imaging, and highly focused radiation delivery.
The program comprises a total of 35 faculty affiliated with six departments and two schools and has attracted substantial peer-reviewed funding from the NIH and elsewhere, in excess of $8 million per year. The program also engages actively in training young physicians and researchers in radiobiology and radiotherapy.