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Last Updated: 07/09/2015

Radiation Research Program (RRP)


Killing cancer cells and eradicating cancer while minimizing damage to healthy cells is the goal of radiation therapy. About half of all patients with cancer undergo radiation therapy, the majority of them with curative intent. Finding new ways of using radiation therapy more effectively and with fewer side effects is paramount for maintaining patients’ quality of life and improving cure rates. This entails innovative uses of technology and biology, and integration into multimodality cancer care and research as well as improving access of underserved people to quality cancer care.

The RRP is responsible for NCI's clinically-related extramural radiation research program. The RRP establishes priorities, allocates resources, and evaluates the effectiveness of such radiation research being conducted by NCI grantees. RRP staff represents the program at NCI management and scientific meetings and provide scientific support to leadership on matters related to radiation research. The RRP coordinates its activities with other radiation research programs at NCI, NIH, other Federal agencies, and national and international research organizations, and it provides a focal point within NIH for extramural investigators concerned with clinically related radiation research.

As part of ongoing efforts to stimulate research in radiotherapy and radiation biology, the Radiation Research Program supports basic, translational, and clinical research in the Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis (DCTD) by:

  • Providing expertise to investigators and potential grantees who perform cutting-edge research with radiation and other forms of energy
  • Helping to lead the radiotherapy research community in establishing priorities for the future direction of radiation research, including interagency cooperation and collaboration
  • Developing and promoting collaborative efforts among extramural investigators for both preclinical and clinical investigations
  • Creating unique models and capabilities to help and mentor medically underserved communities in the United States and worldwide to access cancer clinical trials
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of radiation research being conducted by NCI grantees
  • Advising the NCI-funded clinical trials groups and the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP) regarding scientific priorities and quality assurance in clinical studies with radiotherapy
  • Through the Molecular Radiation Therapeutics Branch, providing guidance to extramural investigators, collaborating with DCTD experts and working with colleagues in the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research to develop novel combined modality therapy.
  • Serving as the NCI’s liaison and advisor on the mitigation of radiation injury to normal tissue and the development of biomarkers for radiation injury in programs addressing radiological and nuclear terrorism in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within the Department of Health and Human Services.

RRP is divided into three branches: The Radiotherapy Development Branch (RDB), the Clinical Radiation Oncology Branch (CROB) and the Molecular Radiation Therapeutics Branch (MRTB).

Working with NCI and NIH Grant and Contract Awardees

The primary responsibility of RRP is to the grantees and contractors of NCI and NIH awards.

The research portfolio of RRP encompasses a broad range of topics, including basic radiation physics track structure; DNA damage and repair; radiation-inducible molecular changes, including signaling and apoptosis; tumor biology; radiation sensitizers and protectors; normal tissue injury and treatment; image-guided radiation therapy; systemic targeted radionuclide therapy; photodynamic therapy (PDT); and others. The field of radiation oncology is unique in the breadth of expertise and knowledge required for both preclinical development and optimal clinical use.

RRP helps stimulate new areas of investigation by bringing together experts in workshops on current and developing topics in the areas covered by this program. These are often co-sponsored by scientific societies. The RRP endeavors to include young investigators in the workshops and has occasional workshops targeting young investigators.

Radiotherapy Development Branch

Eric Bernhard, Ph.D., Branch Chief

Pat Prasanna, Ph.D.

Rosemary Wong, Ph.D.

Mansoor M. Ahmed, Ph.D.

The Radiotherapy Development Branch (RDB):

The primary mission of the Radiotherapy Development Branch is to support various extramural research mechanisms of: (1) radiation interactions with biologic systems, (2) radiation interactions with biologic materials, and (3) the application of radiation for therapeutic purposes.

This branch oversees grants in a wide range of topics including: radiation physics, radiobiology of tumor cells, normal cells and tissues, development of novel therapeutic tools and development of predictive assays and biomarkers of tumor and normal tissue responses. RDB’s grant portfolio is managed by four Program Directors, each very knowledgeable in their area(s) of expertise.

In addition to grants management, RDB is also involved in promoting radiobiology education. RDB brings together experts from a range of fields to foster improved understanding and therapeutic utility of radiation and other forms of energy. RDB is involved with NIAID and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) on issues of radiologic protection. RDB also, works with other Federal agencies to identify knowledge gaps, research opportunities, and develop proposals for funding through the Small Business Innovation Research / Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program.

Clinical Radiation Oncology Branch

Bhadrasain (Vik) Vikram, M.D., Branch Chief (also Deputy Associate Director, RRP)

Jacek Capala, Ph.D., D.Sc.

The Clinical Radiation Oncology Branch (CROB):

  1. Plans, develops, and executes a program that facilitates clinical radiation oncology research, with radiation oncology broadly defined to include radiation used alone and in combination with chemotherapeutic, immunologic and biological agents, hyperthermia and radiation modifiers;
  2. Serves as a focal point for Radiation Oncologists who want to work with NCI in terms of its research and training programs;
  3. Reviews all clinical trials involving radiation therapy, assists and advise the Clinical Investigations Branch (CIB) of the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP) in protocol review and the radiotherapy aspects of the clinical cooperative group program;
  4. Collects and disseminates information on cancer treatment research with radiotherapy;
  5. Conceptualizes and organizes workshops and conferences with appropriate collaborators. Disseminates workshop reports and summaries;
  6. Participates in clinical, developmental, investigational, educational and extramural community-related activities of the Radiation Oncology Sciences Program, which includes the Radiation Oncology Branch and the Cancer Disparities Research Partnerships. Consults and collaborates with the Radiotherapy Development Branch and Medical Physics. In addition, participates in quality assurance activities, cooperative group liaisons, and on-site reviews of the NCI and NIH.

Molecular Radiation Therapeutics Branch

Mansoor M. Ahmed, Ph.D., Acting Branch Chief

The primary mission of the MRTB is to facilitate the generation of preclinical data that will support clinical trials with radiation modifiers. The program that was first initiated was called the Radiation Modifiers Evaluation Module (RAMEM) which was a unique national and international resource to assist a wide range of potential collaborators in providing preclinical data to support the safe conduct of drug approval for clinical trials involving radiation modifiers. Adopting such concepts, currently MRTB plays a central role developing the overall design for clinical implementation of radiation modifiers coupled with updates on advances in approaches, particularly, in molecular targeted therapy.

Through these efforts, the MRTB stimulates discussion among various disease-site / biology working groups that interact periodically to bring in new agents as radiation modifiers from either the CTEP portfolio or company interactions.

About the
Associate Director

Norman Coleman C. Norman Coleman, M.D., holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Vermont and received his medical training at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Coleman completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, a fellowship in medical oncology at NCI, and a fellowship in radiation oncology at Stanford University. More…

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About RRP