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Research

Radiation Oncology is a speciality with research foundations in radiation physics and radiation biology which are then translated to clinical practice. Faculty members in the Department of Radiation Oncology at UC Irvine School of Medicine are engaged in research at all levels of this discipline.

Radiation Biology

Research in this discipline is carried out by Drs. Charles Limoli, Eugene Elmore and John Redpath. Current areas of emphasis are:

  • The application of stem cell therapy to treat radiation-damaged normal tissues with the current focus being cognitive impairment as a result of brain irradiation and chemotherapy in model rodent systems (Limoli Laboratory).
  • The impact of various radiation types, including gamma radiation and simulated space irradiation (protons and heavy ions) on the response of human neural stem and progenitor cells (Limoli Laboratory).
  • Application of model in vitro studies to assess the risk of radiation-induced cancer at doses of radiation in the diagnostic radiology range (Redpath and Elmore).
  • Examination of biomarkers to monitor the effectiveness of candidate chemopreventive agents in a cellular model of colon cancer progression (Elmore and Redpath).

Radiation Physics

Radiation Physics plays a pivotal role in Radiation Oncology because it guarantees that a treatment delivered to a patient targets only the tumor region with the prescribed radiation dose as instructed by the attending physician.  For this purpose, treatment techniques that could be more efficient and potentially more accurate are routinely tested through well-designed phantom experiments that closely simulate actual clinical conditions.  This work is performed by faculty oncology physicists whose members include Drs Muthana Al-Ghazi, Dante Roa and Varun Sehgal.

Some of the most recent projects investigated have been:

  • The application of volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT) for delivering stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic body radiotherapy.
  • Pancreatic interfraction movement measured by fiducial markers for patients receiving 3-D conformal radiation therapy.
  • Investigation of skin dose toxicity in patients undergoing intensity-modulated radiotherapy for breast cancer.

Clinical Radiation Therapy

The main objective in a patient undergoing radiation treatment is to maximize the radiation dose to the target region while minimizing dose to any adjacent organ(s).  However, evaluation of the efficacy of a radiotherapy treatment may require at least 5- to 10-year patient follow-ups to fully assess the treatment outcome and also address potential side-effects that may have resulted.

At UC Irvine Department of Radiation Oncology, we were one of the first centers in the nation to utilize volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT) in the form of RapidArc for the treatment of head and neck cases. This VMAT treatment technique has allowed us to maximize the dose to the target region(s) and minimize the dose to nearby healthy organs. Thus far, close to 100 patients have benefitted from this type of treatment and we are currently in the process of initiating a long-term follow-up clinical study to assess the outcome.

This will be one of the first clinical studies of this type that will address the efficacy of VMAT clinically; it could have a significant impact on the radiation oncology community.