Radiation Oncology Research

The Department of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford participates in bench to bedside research to improve radiation technologies and radiation delivery systems for patients with cancer and other diseases. Our researchers are funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, and other sources. Ongoing research by Henry Ford Radiation Oncology includes radiation physics technology applications, radiation therapy clinical trials for many types of cancer, including gene therapies for prostate cancer, as well as clinical trials focused on reducing the side effects of therapies for breast cancer.

Radiation and gene therapies

Our researchers have developed a gene therapy to increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy. The gene therapy uses an adenovirus to deliver "suicide genes" to the tumors. The suicide genes make the cancer cells more sensitive to treatment with specific drugs and radiation therapy. This research led to several clinical trials targeting the use of gene therapy in prostate cancer treatment. These clinical trials were completed with excellent results.

Molecular Gene and Radiation Therapies for Cancer
Principal Investigator:
Svend Freytag, Ph.D.

The National Cancer Institute Program Project grant awarded to Henry Ford Radiation Oncology scientists includes several projects with a focus to advance gene therapy technology on three fronts:

  • By developing better gene therapy products
  • By developing better means of gene therapy product delivery and monitoring
  • By evaluating the merit of these preclinical advancements in the clinic

All of these studies are designed to be translated into patient clinical trials. The clinical trials first examine the safety and effectiveness of the gene therapy in combination with radiation therapy in patients with newly diagnosed prostate cancer using a "new and improved" gene therapy product.

Radiation oncology integrative therapies research

Radiation Oncology Breast Services Research
Principal Investigator:
Eleanor Walker, M.D.

The Henry Ford Radiation Oncology Breast Services Program has focused on research therapies to help reduce the side effects of treatment for women with breast cancer. One study compared acupuncture to the anti-depressant venlafaxine (Effexor) in breast cancer patients. The results showed that acupuncture was as effective and longer-lasting in managing the side effects of hot flashes, night sweats, and excessive sweating associated with breast cancer treatment compared to the anti-depressant drug therapy.

  • Related Publication: Walker EM, Rodriguez AI, Kohn B, et al. Acupuncture versus venlafaxine for the management of vasomotor symptoms in patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2010;28:634-40.

Exercise and Cancer
Principal Investigator:
Eleanor Walker, M.D.

This study was designed to examine how exercise impacts cancer patients. Called the Exercise and Cancer Integrative Therapies and Education (ExCITE) program, cancer patients enrolled in the program receive an individualized exercise plan. Some of the study's cancer patients use one of the Henry Ford Fitness Centers to work out, and other patients can work out at home during various stages of cancer treatment. The exercise study includes newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and prostate cancer patients. Cancer patients enrolled in the exercise study are followed during treatment and one year after completing treatment.

  • Study Update: The breast cancer and prostate cancer patients who exercised regularly were found to have less fatigue and improved quality of life.

Radiosurgery/SBRT Research
Principal Investigator:
Samuel Ryu, M.D.

The Radiosurgery/SBRT Program at Henry Ford conducts ongoing research in three main areas:

  • Development of radiosurgery technology.
  • Exploring new clinical indications for radiosurgery/SBRT.
  • Normal tissue tolerance study of radiosurgery/SBRT: Since radiosurgery uses a large dose of radiation to a small area, the radiation dose spillage can cause short-term and long-term complications in the immediately surrounding normal tissues in the brain, spinal cord, lung, and in various organs and tissues. We have been tracking the radiation doses of these tissues on every radiosurgery procedure, making a large database to improve the knowledge of radiation reaction in these tissues. A prominent output of this research effort is the world's first documentation of spinal cord tolerance dose to spine radiosurgery. This became the basis of all the spine radiosurgery procedures and clinical trials currently underway.

Radiation safety research

Funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Henry Ford Radiation Oncology researchers are studying how certain drugs may help to reduce radiation injury to healthy tissue. This type of research is important not only for cancer patients treated by radiation, but also for the U.S. government's efforts to safeguard our communities in case of a radioactive accident or terrorist attack. Three classes of drugs being studies include ACE inhibitors, statins, and SOD mimetics.

Clinical Trials