cancer

It still amazes me that cancer can be so simple and yet complex all at the same time.  How is it that one cell that is outside the normal cell checkpoints can cause so much damage?  Much of the work that I have been doing here deals with cancer cells and the effects that radiation has on them.  Using radiation, we can damage cellular DNA.  If there is enough damage, cell death ensues.  This is the basic principle behind radiation therapy for cancer patients.

Below are a few pictures of some chromosomes that have suffered DNA damage (with subsequent repair and misrepair).  The image on the top is actually of a cell that failed to properly divide and now has double the number of chromosomes that it should have.

The facility here at NIRS (national institute of radiological sciences) is unique because it houses HIMAC, one of three accelerators in the world that utilize heavy ions (carbon in this case) as a radiation treatment for cancer.  I say it is unique because the carbon beam is very effective at specifically targeting tumor tissues while sparing normal, healthy tissue.  This technology greatly reduces side effects associated with radiation therapy.  Additionally, the carbon beam is still very effective on hypoxic tumors (those lacking oxygen).  Photon radiation treatments (utilizing X-rays and gamma-rays) are ineffective at treating these tumors because they require oxygen to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can then cause damage to the cell and induce death.  Later today I will be starting my first experiments working toward my masters thesis!  I am totally stoked to be able to start!  I will post more later when I have some more information about the study.

Chuck

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  1. Chuck,
    Let us know what it is like working with the beam at night — I think someone mentioned to me that most of the research work happens at night when there are no patients. Have fun! Carol

    • meg
    • July 7th, 2010

    Chuck – your work at NIRS looks amazing. Thank you for sharing this with us. I look forward to learning more!

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