Radiation therapy and the brain symposium

Rolf Heckemann

Rolf Heckemann, professor at MedTech West and one of the initiators to the symposium

On 15 September 2016, MedTech West hosted a symposium and kick-off meeting on radiation effects on the brain. A multitude of key members with expertise in methods for studying the issue got together and shared their views. With six lectures and a series of in-depth discussions, we got to know about each others’ expertise and views. The participants agreed that radiation effects on the brain are a hot research topic, and that the time is right to coordinate our endeavours.

Living organisms are sensitive to irradiation. Ionizing radiation — for example X-rays, particle beams, and gamma radiation — has particularly distinct biological effects both on normal as well as on tumour tissue. This makes it useful in radiotherapy, where we treat patients who have cancer with ionizing radiation to kill the cancer cells. Radiotherapy is very effective, but it also has adverse side effects because healthy tissue will also be exposed to — and damaged by — radiation. Irradiated organs respond in complex ways, and this is particularly true for the brain. The mechanisms of damage, recovery, and adaptation of the central nervous system to radiation are not fully understood.

Lina Bunketorp-Käll

Lina Bunketorp-Käll

Gothenburg is home to a number of clinicians and research groups with great competence in methods that are suitable for studying radiation effects on the brain. Combining the skills, knowledge, and scientific creativity of these groups will create opportunities for new research work that will throw light on the effects of radiation on the nervous system. Advancing our understanding of the brain’s response mechanisms will yield important insights that will potentially lead to progress in how we treat patients, ultimately leading to longer survival and better quality of life for people suffering from cancer.

To this end, we invite all interested parties to join the special interest group. At the next meeting (to be announced in due course) we will discuss proposals for the scientific strategy and for the organization and funding of the group. In the meantime, do not hesitate to contact rolf.heckemann@medtechwest.se or thomas.bjork-eriksson@oncology.gu.se for questions or suggestions.

Rolf Heckemann
Thomas Björk-Eriksson
Marie Kalm