Key Objectives of the Department of Radiation Sciences

1. Understanding the mechanisms of radiation effects on healthy and diseased tissue

As a prelude to designing treatment individualization and innovative strategies to enhance tumor control without increasing adverse effects of the exposures it is necessary to understand the molecular effects of radiation on healthy and diseased tissue. Our mechanistic studies will focus on understanding cellular responses leading to the development of disease. We concentrate on omics analyses of cancer and non-cancer effects at the genome, transcriptome, proteome and epigenome level, and have developed strategies to integrate these data to allow the identification of crucial pathways and potential therapeutic targets. This systems approach, together with biological, molecular biological, and epigenetic studies will decipher the biological processes underlying disease development.

Our vision is to contribute towards personalized therapy by identifying molecular targets and appropriate inhibitors, as well as novel small molecules and engineered exosome radiomodulators.

2. Prognostic and predictive markers for patient stratification

This is a central pillar in our translational strategy (see below) and is designed to advance therapy through an improved understanding of both innate and acquired differences in the response of an individual to therapeutic radiation. By combining multi-omics data with clinical follow-up data we are developing prognostic and predictive biomarkers for the pretreatment stratification of radiotherapy patients into good and poor responders or into normal and hyper-radiation-sensitive groups.

Our vision is to design targeted therapy strategies that will include individualized dose reduction or local dose increase, implementation of novel treatment and diagnostic techniques, or application of modifiers of radiation response.

3. Understanding long-term health risks of radiation and developing strategies for dose reduction

Long-term cancer therapy survivors may develop persistent diseases reminiscent of accelerated ageing. Not only should we be able to predict the individual risk of such an outcome, but also be able to weigh such outcomes against the potential clinical benefits. To achieve this we must be able to accurately assess the exposure and predict the biological consequences thereof. To meet this challenge, the DRS will develop methods and technologies to more accurately determine individual radiation exposures, also including non-therapeutic medical and environmental exposures that may affect human health, in particular tissue stem cell regenerative capacities. We are developing molecular epidemiological approaches to complement the risk analysis effort in order to better predict pathogenesis after exposure to ionizing radiation. This strategy complements our other work (see above) on providing more effective therapy at lower radiation doses.

Our vision is to develop model-based simulations to predict and quantify risk and to enter dialogue with the clinic to determine the most effective risk benefit scenario for each patient.

For details see individual websites of the DRS partners.