Division of Translational Radiation Sciences
Radiation is also used as a research tool for inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis), cell cycle checkpoints, and to damage the genetic material for studies of DNA repair. DNA damage and repair, and its impact on the genetic and epigenetic integrity of the cell in cancer and related diseases, is a key focus of our research division. These studies will lead to an understanding of the biological effects of radiation exposure, with the ultimate objective of providing a rational scientific basis to improve radiation therapy for cancer patients. In addition, knowledge of DNA damage and repair in normal and cancer cells will enable the development of novel therapies in cancer.
The Principle investigators in the Radiation Oncology Research Laboratory (RORL) have focused areas of research ranging from the biochemical processes involved in cellular DNA damage and repair responses, to the abnormal repair pathways in cancer cells. Each of the areas of research considerably strengthen the research in its translation to the clinic and is evidenced by the translational research initiatives launched in the Department.
- Dr. Thomas MacVittie’s research efforts are focused on the acute and delayed effects of ionizing radiation on the hematopoietic and gastrointestinal systems, as well as the lung. He has extensive experience with the use of hematopoietic growth factors (HGF) in the treatment of myelosuppression or myeloablation and bone marrow transplant. He is currently investigating the efficacy of other drugs and/or biologics to mitigate radiation injury in the GI and lung, as well as elucidate the mechanism of actions for these compounds
- Dr. Zeljko Vujaskovic is heading the new division of Translational Radiation Sciences. His research interests include normal tissue response to radiation: prediction, prevention, modification and imaging; Hyperthermia cancer treatment; and Urologic malignancies
- Dr. Feyruz Rassool’s laboratory focuses on the effects of abnormal DNA damage and repair in cancers and leukemias, and how DNA repair is abnormally regulated, resulting in survival, progression and resistance to chemo/radio-therapeutic agents. One focus of her work is the inhibition of abnormal DNA repair in breast cancer and leukemia as a therapeutic strategy.
- Dr. France Carrier’s group is interested in understanding molecular events underlying cancer progression, and to delineate intrinsic differences between normal and cancer cells in order to more specifically target cancer cells and improve current cancer therapies. In particular, she is investigating the radio-sensitizing effect of enzymes that deacetylate histones ,histone deacylatylase inhibitors (HDACIs) to improve conventional and new radiotherapy treatments for glioblastomas, lymphoma, lung, melanoma and gastrointestinal cancers.
- Dr. Janet Baulch’s laboratory is focused on the effects of low dose radiation on the stability of the genome, leading to genomic instability and epigenetic changes. Her main interest is to define and characterize the transgenerational changes associated with low dose irradiation.
- Dr. Juong Rhee’s laboratory studies tumor physiology with the ultimate goal of developing novel treatments for cancer. The lab is particularly interested in the hypoxic regions of tumors that are nutritionally deficient regions away from a blood supply and tend to be resistant to radiation therapy and most chemotherapeutic agents. The lab is studying the regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a factor produced by the tumors which includes blood vessel growth, and the regulation of the gene p53 which has many functions in the cell including DNA damage repair and apoptosis (programmed cell death).
- Dr. Elizabeth Balcer-Kubiczek’s research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by chemo/radio-therapeutic agents exert their cell killing, at therapeutically relevant doses used in the clinic. In the light of the recent discoveries of hyper-radiosensitivity (HRS) and bystander effects, Dr Balcer-Kubiczek is reevaluating radiodosimetry and the enhancing rather than sparing effects of dose fractionation with high-energy therapeutic radiation doses.
Translational Initiative – Bringing Clinicians and Scientists Together
The Radiation Oncology department has recently launched a translational interest group to bring clinicians and researchers together around specific translational research questions. This group is headed by Dr. Carrier and meets once a month. The department has also recently established an internal pilot grant initiative that aims to bring clinicians and researchers together to ask focused translational research questions. This work will hopefully result in future funding from outside agencies. Dr. Carrier and Dr. Kwok have recently received pilot funding to study HDACi and low dose radiation in the treatment of glioblastomas.
- Zeljko Vujaskovic, MD, PhD, Professor, Director of the Division of Translational Radiation Sciences
- Elizabeth Balcer-Kubiczek, PhD, Associate Professor
- Janet Baulch, PhD, Assistant Professor
- France Carrier, PhD, Associate Professor
- Isabel Lauren Jackson, PhD, Assistant Professor
- Thomas Macvittie, PhD, Professor
- Javed Mahmood, PhD, Assistant Professor
- Feyruz Rassool, PhD, Associate Professor
- Juong Rhee, PhD, Associate Professor
- Xiuwu Zhang,B.M., D.M., Assistant Professor
- Dacheng Ding
- Wilfried Goetz, Laboratory Research Specialist
- Nidal Muvarak
- Miek Segers, Program Administrator
- Carol B. Blanchard, Research Administrative Specialist
- Esther Moses, Office Manager