The research lab of CROR member Heath Skinner, M.D., Ph.D., is tackling questions of radiation resistance and sensitivity in head and neck tumors. His work has been published in Clinical Cancer Research, Oncotarget, Oncogene, among others. With three active research grants, we asked him a few questions on his work in radiation science.
How did you get interested in radiation science?
In my fourth year of medical school, I was introduced to both radiation oncology as a specialty as well as radiation science as a discipline. As I learned more about the clinical use of radiation to treat malignancy, I also became interested in examining the biology of why radiation therapy sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. This simplistic question has proven to be nearly intractable, yet still intrigues me.
What are the questions being pursued in your group?
Primarily we're utilizing a variety of different means to investigate novel, targetable biomarkers of resistance to radiotherapy.
What challenges do you see ahead for our field?
The current funding climate is a big factor. At present, the funding for all research, but especially for radiation research, is stagnant at best.
What excites you the most about the future of radiation science?
I'm excited about the interplay between immune response and radiation treatment – an interplay we are just beginning to understand. Another key development that's being translated into the realm of clinically-focused radiation research is molecular biomarker analysis. These developments, if properly utilized, could lead to substantial benefits to our patients.