Researcher Gets $464,000 Grant To Improve Radiation Techniques At James P. Wilmot Cancer Center

June 04, 2002

A University of Rochester Medical Center scientist today received a $464,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to study the accuracy of radiation techniques and ultimately help improve cancer treatment to the lungs and liver.

The four-year grant to Walter O’Dell, Ph.D., will fund the study of how radiation oncologists can improve treatment in organs that move continuously and preserve healthy tissue. He will focus on 40 patients with liver and lung tumors during their radiation treatment.

"Doctors often face a dilemma when prescribing lethal radiation dosages to the lungs because, it not only kills the tumor, but it can also damage healthy tissue and cause complications beyond the cancer," said O’Dell, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. "The lungs and other organs move continuously and our goal is to hit a moving target with such precision that we will cure cancer patients of their disease while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue."

O’Dell’s research will specifically look for ways to predict the movements of an organ in advance of treatment to better target radiation dosages directly to the cancerous tissue. The lungs and liver, which rests on the diaphragm, move continuously, and, as a result, radiation is often delivered to an area larger than the tumor to accommodate the movement.

"The American Cancer Society is committed to funding cutting edge research to find a cure for cancer and, at the same time, find more effective ways to treat the millions of cancer patients in our county and ensure their long survivorship," said Terri Kip, executive vice president for the American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey.

O’Dell is a member of the Robert J. Flavin Shaped Beam Surgery Center’s treatment planning team. Shaped-beam radiosurgery was developed to provide radiation to brain tumors with pinpoint accuracy and oncologists at the Wilmot Cancer Center are now extending it to treat soft tissue tumors throughout the body.

The Wilmot Cancer Center is the only site in the United States studying how to use this technology to treat the liver and lungs. Since doctors began using the technology 18 months ago, more than 150 patients have been treated, and many of them traveling from across the country for treatment.

"The American Cancer Society provides an important resource for scientists and clinicians studying new and better techniques to conquer cancer. We’re grateful for their continued support of the Wilmot Cancer Center," said Richard I. Fisher, M.D., director, James P. Wilmot Cancer Center and director of cancer services, Strong Health.

O’Dell’s grant is one of more than 120 new cancer research projects worth $64.5 million funded by the American Cancer Society in dozens of medical institutions throughout the country.

The American Cancer Society invests about $100 million each year on cancer research. In addition to the O’Dell grant, the American Cancer Society last year awarded a $1.7 million grant to study the causes of nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy is also underway at the Wilmot Cancer Center. The grant, presented to Gary Morrow, Ph.D., extends through the end of 2005.

The James P. Wilmot Cancer Center is the leading source for cancer care and research in Upstate New York.

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Leslie White
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