Department of Radiation Oncology

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Virtual Open House

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 at 5pm EST

Meet our faculty and residents - your potential future colleagues! 

We will answer your questions and discuss the Penn approach to teaching and mentorship. Register via the link below:

UPenn Rad Onc Virtual Open House Registration Form

8th Annual Penn Proton Course December 3, 2021


CAR T Cells Expressing a Natural RNA Can Activate the Body’s Own T Cells Against Solid Tumors

(September 3, 2021) CAR T cell therapy needs to recognize a specific target on cancer cells to kill them. Cancer cells do not always have the target, or they find ways to hide the target and stay invisible to CAR T cell attack. A new study from Penn Medicine, published in Cell, shows that RN7SL1, a naturally occurring RNA, can activate the body’s own natural T cells to seek out cancer cells that have escaped recognition by CAR T cells. This may help improve efforts to treat solid tumors, which represent most human cancers. According to Andy J. Minn, MD, PhD, a professor of Radiation Oncology and co-lead author of the study, “CAR T cells are like lone soldiers without backup. With the right tools, they can kickstart the body’s own immune system and target cancer cells missed with CAR T cells alone.”

Exercise Linked to Cardiorespiratory Benefit, Lower PSA Level in Men with Prostate Cancer

(August 30, 2021) According to a randomized study published in JAMA Oncology, exercise appeared associated with decreased PSA levels, PSA velocity and prostate cancer cell growth in men with localized prostate cancer under active surveillance. High-intensity interval training also may be an effective intervention to improve cardiorespiratory fitness among this patient population. Neha Vapiwala, MD, a professor of Radiation Oncology, stated that the ERASE trial empowers this patient population “to be in better physical, functional and psychological shape for any future medical interventions they may need.”

AI for Radiation Therapy Works, but Is it Fully Trusted?

(June 17, 2021) Neha Vapiwala, MD, a professor of Radiation Oncology, commented on a study that found that radiation treatment plans generated by artificial intelligence were deemed clinically acceptable. However, when put into clinical practice, many of those AI plans weren’t chosen by radiation oncologists. “You might follow the typical guidelines, and a treatment plan may look ‘perfect,’ but perhaps you’ve observed outcomes with patients in that particular scenario that you incorporate in your decision making and that may favor a non-automated approach,” she said.

"Synergistic” Immunotherapies Elicit Strong Attack Against Aggressive Brain Tumors

(June 15, 2021) A novel combination of immunotherapies activated a strong, anti-tumor immune response in notoriously hard-to-penetrate glioblastoma tumors, according to a new study led by Yi Fan, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology. Immunotherapy holds great promise to treat solid tumors; however, current approaches face significant challenges with immunologically “cold” tumors that lock out T cells. The team found that combining a checkpoint inhibitor with approaches that target the protein IL-6 and CD40 allowed T cells to migrate into the tumor and attack. The approach doubled the survival in one preclinical mouse model and surprisingly induced complete tumor regression in another model. “This dual-targeting treatment may serve as an adjuvant therapy after standard of care, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, for GBM and other solid tumors,” Fan said. “And it could be feasible, convenient, and hopefully effective." The co-senior authors of this work also include Yanqing Anna Gong, PhD, a research assistant professor of Medicine, and Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center. The research team, including Stephen Bagley, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine, Steven Brem, MD, chief of Neurosurgical Oncology, and Fan are planning to initiate a human clinical trial.


Read the paper in Nature Communications

Penn Medicine Receives $4.9 Million Grant to Improve Uptake of Cancer Care Best Practices

(August 4, 2020) While extensive research has pointed toward ways to ensure patients receive evidence-based cancer care, putting these solutions into widespread practice can be a complex, challenging, and inefficient process. Now, a new grant awarded to the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania will help identify methods to bridge this gap, improving uptake of state-of-the-science care that can have a significant impact for patients. Dr. Justin Bekelman, is one of the three primary investigators for this NCI Cancer Moonshot grant.

Targeting Stromal Cells May Help Overcome Treatment Resistance in Glioblastoma

(Feb. 26, 2020) The deadly brain cancer glioblastoma (GBM) is often resistant to chemotherapy and radiation, but new research from the Perelman School of Medicine  and Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center shows targeting stromal cells – the cells that serve as the connective tissue of the organs – may be an effective way of overcoming that resistance. Read the full article with senior author, Yi Fan, MD, PhD here.

Penn Medicine Shows Giving Entire Course of Radiation Treatment in Less Than a Second is Feasible

(Jan. 9, 2020) Researchers in the Roberts Proton Therapy Center have shown that using proton radiation to generate the dosage needed to theoretically give a cancer patient their entire course of radiotherapy in less than a second is feasible. The work was led by James M. Metz, MD, director of the Roberts Proton Therapy Center and chair of Radiation Oncology, Constantinos Koumenis, PhD, a professor of Research Oncology, Keith A. Cengel, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology, and Eric Diffenderfer, PhD, an assistant professor of Radiation Oncology. Read the report published today in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics



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