- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

RICHMOND (AP) — Virginia Commonwealth University has received a $10.7 million grant to study radiation-therapy cancer treatments.

The school’s Massey Cancer Center will use the money from the National Cancer Institute to cover research in the field of radiation oncology, including therapies for prostate, lung and cervical cancers.

In “all of these cancers, we fight a battle between trying to adequately treat the tumors and not overtreat the normal tissues,” said Jeffrey F. Williamson, a professor of radiation oncology and chairman of that department’s division of medical physics.

Much of the work covered by the grant will consist of computer and mathematical analysis of what occurs during cancer-treatment scenarios and then using the data to determine the best treatment for a patient.

“A major reason why that battle is so difficult to win with conventional radiotherapy is we don’t always know where the tumors in normal tissues are because the body is a living, biological, breathing system,” Mr. Williamson said. Because a tumor’s position isn’t exactly clear, the radiation therapy must cover a larger field to ensure that the tumor is included, he said.

Jeffrey Siebers, who with Mr. Williamson is leading the research covered by the grant, said that when patients are treated, their tissues and tumors changes in shape, but the basic ways patients change are similar.

“One of the things we can do by evaluating a bunch of different patients is evaluate how often we need to monitor the patient to detect what would be significant changes,” he said. “While I am not going to apply that information from another patient to you, I can learn about how often I need to check you and also develop these algorithms and computer models to say, ‘This is how tissue moves.’ ”

Researchers will begin enrolling patients with lung, cervical or prostate cancer in the studies in about six months. About 25 patients from each cancer type will be enrolled over the first two years of the research.

Domenick Casuccio, spokesman for the state chapter of the American Cancer Society, praised the project.

“If you have local research, then you have local clinical trials,” Mr. Casuccio said. “You have people who can be part of cutting-edge research and treatment for their diagnosis.”

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