Making radiotherapy more effective

Martin-Immanuel Bittner, a medical doctor and Rhodes Scholar, currently completing his DPhil in Oncology, has been investigating ways to make radiotherapy more effective.

Radiotherapy is one of the pillars of modern cancer therapy, with the irradiation causing damage to cancer cells, resulting in cancer cell death. However, the irradiation also affects healthy tissue surrounding the tumour, which causes side effects. It is therefore desirable to develop tumour-specific radiosensitising agents, which can be given concurrently to radiotherapy, to selectively make cancer cells more sensitive to irradiation, without altering the radiosensitivity of the surrounding normal tissue.

During the past three years, Martin has been working on a putative target protein for radiosensitisation previously identified in a genome-wide screen for novel drug targets. The data accumulated so far allow him to formulate a hypothesis for a mode of action linking the novel protein and its influence on radiosensitivity in cancer and normal tissue cells. At the same time, patient data demonstrate a link between the expression of this protein and prognosis. Future work will concentrate on developing agents targeting this protein, which can then be validated in the laboratory, aiming at ultimately introducing them into clinical settings.

Martin’s project at the Department of Oncology has been providing exciting new insights into the biological processes underlying a novel protein’s role in radiosensitivity, and at the same time, showing promise of clinical applicability in cancer therapy in the future.

Published: 29 June 2017

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Martin is a member of Geoff Higgins's research group at the Department of Oncology

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