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M. D. Anderson Mathematician Wins Radiation Research Society Award

M. D. Anderson Mathematician Wins Radiation Research Society Award
M. D. Anderson News Release 06/22/01

Dr. Howard D. Thames of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center recently received the 2001 Failla Award, the top honor given by the Radiation Research Society.  Dr. Thames received the award and gave a talk on "Questions Related to Cells, Molecules and Radiotherapy" during the 48th annual meeting of the society, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Failla Award was established in 1962 to honor the late Gioacchino Failla, one of the founders of the Radiation Research Society and its second president. It is given to an outstanding member of the radiation research community in recognition of significant contributions to the field.

"There are a lot of people who deserve the award," said Dr. Thames, a professor of biomathe-matics and first holder of the Helen Buchanan and Stanley Joseph Seeger Research Professorship. "It was unusual that they chose me in that I'm a mathematical modeler rather than an experimentalist."

After earning his Ph.D. in chemistry at Rice University, Dr. Thames joined M. D. Anderson in 1970. He is an expert on mathematical problems in theoretical and experimental radiobiology, the science of how radiation therapy interacts with normal and malignant tissues. With his mathematical models, he has played a key role in quantifying radiation biology and radiation therapy.

Dr. Thames is best known for his discovery in the early 1980s of the alpha/beta ratio, which allows radiotherapists to predict the response of normal and malignant tissue to changes in radiation doses. The formula has been the basis for clinical trials in radiation therapy world-wide resulting in improvements in survival.

"Although taken for granted now, the impact of that understanding was quite dramatic at that time," said Dr. H. Rodney Withers, chair of the University of California - Los Angeles Department of Radiation Oncology. "In addition to his notable impact on specific aspects of radiation biology and radiation therapy, Dr. Thames has been a paradigm for the interaction of biomathematicians with scientists and physicians in basic and clinical research."

Dr. Withers nominated Dr. Thames for the award. The nomination also was supported by Dr. Elizabeth L. Travis of M. D. Anderson, past president of the Radiation Research Society.
"Howard is a rare breed in our midst: an outstanding mathematician who has the remarkable ability to apply basic mathematical modeling to tissue responses to radiation," Dr. Travis said. "Very few of us can claim that our research has had such a visible and beneficial impact on the care of cancer patients in such a short period of time."

Dr. Thames has published nearly 200 papers in top journals in his field, written numerous book chapters, and co-authored the book “Fractionation and Radiotherapy.”


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