Cancer is one of the largest and most important public health issues in developed countries. Decades of sustained investments in cancer prevention, detection, and treatment have dramatically improved survival rates, which exceed 70% and 80% for adult and childhood cancer patients, respectively. However, many long-term survivors will experience severe and chronic treatment-related health problems, including second cancers, cardiac toxicity, and fertility complications, to name a few. In the next decade or two, continued research will likely yield complete cures for most primary cancers. Consequently, in the war on cancer, future battles will increasingly need to focus on improving the health of cancer survivors. This will include developing cancer treatment methods with less long-term side effects and improving post-treatment surveillance and survivorship care.
Radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy are the main weapons against cancer and they are most frequently used in combination. Radiation is safe, highly effective, and comparatively cost effective, but is can cause radiogenic second cancers and myriad non-malignant conditions. After more than a century of radiation research, a tremendous amount is known about the effects of radiation on biologic systems, yet our understanding of radiobiology in human cancer patients is surprisingly limited. We expect that recent and future advances in biology will open new research frontiers in radiation biology, and these will in turn lead to improved outcomes for cancer patients.
In this talk, I will present a basic introduction to cancer, radiobiology, and radiotherapy. Illustrative examples of research will be presented that seek to combine biological and physical approaches to solve currently intractable problems. The talk is intended for freshman or higher undergraduates interested in applications of human biology to cancer.
Dr. Wayne Newhauser holds the Dr. Charles M. Smith Chair in Medical Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Louisiana State University. He serves as director of the Medical Physics Program. He is a board certified and licensed medical physicist. After earning degrees in nuclear engineering and medical physics from the University of Wisconsin, he worked at the German National Standards Laboratory (PTB), Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Newhauser has published more than 80 peer-reviewed journal articles, leads federal research grants, and mentors students and post-doctoral fellows. In his spare time, he serves in leadership roles of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine and the American Nuclear Society.
Louisiana State University, Physics and Astronomy
Dr. Charles M. Smith Chair of Medical Physics Professor and Director, Medical and Health Physics