Research Narrative

Research Highlights

My research interests are divided into clinical and pre-clinical components; all are aimed at the improvement of radiation therapy outcomes for cancer patients. Listed below are several major on-going projects in these fields.

Treatment verification and real-time adaptation with beam’s-eye-view (BEV) imaging

Our group is developing a new technique to localize tumors during radiation therapy using beam’s-eye-view (BEV) imaging. The BEV images show the internal anatomy that is being treated, while it is being treated. By using the treatment beam itself, we essentially get the information for free; no additional radiation is delivered to the patient and tumor localization is verified while the treatment beam is on. We have already used this system for treatment monitoring, verification, delivered dose calculation and adaptation. We have successfully demonstrated dynamically motion of the treatment beam aperture to precisely target the tumor. Current projects include an Academic-Industrial Partnership with Varian Medical Systems, Inc. (R01CA188446) to design, build and test novel flat-panel imagers. 

A precision image-guided irradiator for pre-clinical studies

I serve as the Director of Pre-clinical Physics for a precision image-guided irradiator laboratory for pre-clinical studies. This facility is one of only a handful around the world. The precisely placed, small aperture therapy beams allow the study of advanced pre-clinical techniques that would be difficult, if not impossible, with conventional tools. This instrument is ideal for translational radiation therapy studies as well as basic science inquiries into mechanisms of DNA repair. 

Nanoparticles as vascular-disrupting agents during radiation therapy

We are investigating the use of high atomic number (Z) nanoparticles as vascular-disrupting agents, when combined with radiation. High-Z materials are attractive for this project due to the relatively high photoelectric cross-section. By specifically targeting the endothelial cells of the tumor vasculature, we anticipate a larger effect than by attempting to distribute the nanoparticles throughout the tumor volume. Our concept should be effective for both low energy (brachytherapy) and high energy (MV) clinical scenarios.

Nanoparticles for MR-guided radiation therapy

We are investigating different formulations of ultra-small nanoparticles that can perform as both image contrast and radiation dose amplification agents. This concept is particularly relevant in the context of MR-guided radiation therapy, an emerging clinical technique. Our partners in France, led by Dr. Olivier Tillement, have demonstrated the safety of these nanoparticles in a Phase 1 clinical trial. 

Support

National Institutes of Health; Varian Medical Systems, Inc.; BWH Biomedical Research Institute; Kaye Scholar Awards; JCRT Foundation.

Associates

Joerg Rottmann, Ph.D. – Instructor

Sijumon Kunjachan, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Marios Myronakis, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Yue-Houng Hu, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Jennifer Hayashi – Undergraduate student (NEU)

Alumni 

Alex Detappe, Ph.D. – DFCI and MIT

Olivia Kelada, Ph.D. – Perkin Elmer, Inc.

Stephen Yip, Ph.D. - DFCI

Haijian Chen, Ph.D. – University of Maryland

Matt Luchette, B.S. - M.D. student (Boston University)

Chris Jensen, B.S. - M.D. student (Stanford University)

Wil Ngwa, Ph.D. – BWH and DFCI

Yong Yue, Ph.D. - Cedars-Sinai Hospital

Michalis Aristophanous, Ph.D. - UT MD Anderson Cancer Center

Sang-June Park, Ph.D. - UCLA

Dan Ionascu, Ph.D. – University of Cincinnati