Radiation Biology

About Us

This division is devoted to study of the basic principles of the interaction of radiation and biology systems. Applications to clinical radiation therapy are developed by selection of animal models and correlative in vitro and in vivo systems for predicting the value of combining radiotherapeutic and chemotherapeutic modalities, radiosensitizers and radioprotectors to overcome therapeutic resistance.

Our Mission

The major aim of this division is the development of biological in vivo/in vitro models to simulate clinical problems and to provide a scientific basis for clinical protocol design. The interaction between the basic scientist and the clinician is an essential component. It is this process, begun among the radiation oncology and radiation biology faculty, that lead to the development of interface studies and is best expressed in the goals of our CERRIS grant. The human tumor model, more than the murine or rodent cancer, is the focus for exploring new combinations of radiation therapy and chemotherapy and biologic response modifiers such as interferon.

The identification of mechanisms of therapeutic resistance, particularly in exploring hypoxia but also in analyzing subsets of cells in existing populations and their microenvironment, is being performed. Predictive assays of tumor cell proliferation and normal tissue injury is an ongoing effort. The study of late pathophysiologic effects in a variety of tissues/organs includes the lung, bone marrow, central nervous system, and hypothalmic-pituitary axis. Many of these concepts have been translated into radiation oncology protocols, as previously described. Our weekly research meetings concentrate on a variety of different topics. Encouragement from and the participation of younger faculty, fellows, residents and selected faculty from other departments has given a multidisciplinary character to our research efforts.

Space and Major Equipment

Renovated space in the Jennings Research Laboratory (the former Radiation Oncology Department) as well as laboratory space on the third and fourth floors of the former Cancer Center constitutes the laboratory space used for the Radiation Biology Division projects. All radiation disciplines are represented--clinical radiation oncology, radiation biology, and radiation physics. The radiation services available there include a cobalt-60 and cesium-137 unit, which are shared resources of the Wilmot Cancer Center as well as the Department of Radiation Oncology.

Animal research is conducted in facilities maintained by the University of Rochester Vivarium. The Vivarium occupies 37,000 square feet of space devoted to housing, treatment rooms, and special care facilities for animals including surgery, radiology, and research diet preparation.

Current Research

The Center for Biophysicial Assessment and Risk Management Following Irradiation
The Center for Biophysical Assessment and Risk Management Following Irradiation exists to bring together the knowledge, technologies, and effort of a multidisciplinary, international team of scientific personnel in order to develop medical countermeasures to radiological terrorism. The Center housed at the University of Rochester is one of 8 NIH/NIAID funded centers throughout the United States.

Our CMCR is focused on the development of medical countermeasures to assess, diagnose, and treat those exposed to radiation by developing (1) methods for rapid, high throughput assessment or measurement of radiation exposure through both bioassays and instruments, and (2) agents for mitigation and treatment of radiation effects with an emphasis on early and late side effects in non-hematopoietic tissues. Given both the urgent need to develop and validate medical countermeasures to seemingly imminent radiological and nuclear threats, and the dearth of available assessment tools or therapies, our short-term Center goal has been to develop and validate a number of therapeutic agents and radiation exposure assessment devices as quickly as possible, at least to the point of usefulness and availability for an emergency situation.

Such a requirement is driven by the need for emergency/disaster response teams to be able to rapidly identify those who are contaminated with radioactive material and reassure those who are not, assess the extent/dose of radiation exposure, and administer appropriate treatment. Our expectation is to accelerate the development of our dosimeters and discriminators (methods of screening for radiation exposure which do not measure dose) as well as 2 or 3 of our most promising therapeutic agents that can be offered to victims (and rescue workers) to mitigate early and/or late non-hematopoietic effects.

The Center includes 4 Cores and 5 Scientific Projects, two of which are located at affiliated Universities (Project 5-University of Toronto under Dr. Richard P. Hill, and Project 3-Dartmouth Medical School under Dr. Harold Swartz).

Our Faculty and Staff

  • Peter Keng, Ph.D. – Director
  • Bruce Fenton, Ph.D. – Research Professor
  • Robert Howell , Ph.D. – Research Assistant Professor
  • Irena Nowak , Ph.D. – Instructor
  • Jacqueline P. Williams, Ph.D. - Research Professor
  • Eric Hernady, M.S.
  • Jen-nie Miller, M.S.
  • Scott Paoni, M.S.
  • Ashish Thomas , M.S.
  • Ying Tsai, M.S.

Make an Appointment

If you would like to make an appointment or consult our physicians for a second opinion, please contact us at one of the following locations:

  • Wilmot Cancer Center
    (585) 275-2171
  • Highland Hospital
    (585) 341-6750
  • Cancer Center at Park Ridge
    (585) 225-3989
  • Sands Cancer Center
    (585) 396-6180