At UCI Radiation Oncology, faculty conduct clinical research to improve cancer treatment by focusing directly on those who matter the most, patients. Clinical research has the potential to change care and even lead to breakthroughs. Our clinicians have published clinical research in top-tier journals, including JAMA Oncology, Journal of Clinical Oncology, The Lancet Oncology, IJROBP, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Radiotherapy & Oncology, and Cancer. At UCI, the faculty are engaged in the following:
Through the maintenance of disease-specific databases, faculty have the ability to study the outcomes of how patients did for any given cancer. By examining variables such as survival and cure rates, it is possible to review and compare our outcomes to other centers. Other parameters such as quality of life, side effects, and even those related to those specific to patients (ethnicity, age, socio-economic status) can also be studied. These databases allow researchers to be their own worst critics and provide real-time information on how well we’re doing in treating cancer. More importantly, they set a high bar for expectations and also provide opportunities to constantly reflect on outcomes so adjustments can be tailored to improve patient care.
This advances cancer research by providing advanced and sophisticated imaging and therapeutic techniques for biomarker discovery, drug development and cancer treatment. The ability to see inside the cancer cell and its environment, at the molecular level, is critical to ongoing progress against cancer. It allows researchers to fully understand how cancer cells initiate, grow, and spread. Imaging techniques aid in clinical research by providing opportunities to detect and better target cancers. Discoveries in cancer genetics, epigenetics and immunology have resulted in new, targeted drug treatment approaches that zero in on and interfere with molecular pathways and signals. This research aims to develop the essential techniques and probes used to verify that targeted treatments hit the intended target and achieve the intended response against the cancer. This work can guide treatment selection, monitor the activity of targeted therapies and help predict and monitor for cancer recurrence.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence (AI), a branch of computer science used for predictions and automation, has emerged as potential solution to improve the healthcare journey and to promote precision in cancer care. The ability to enhance boosting the efficiency and accuracy of diagnosis, treatment, and disease monitoring in cancer is what is particularly notable. Together with machine learning techniques to analyze and process complex data sets including those used in imaging, AI research focuses on how to help personalize cancer care.
Health Services Research
UCI Radiation Oncology realizes patients frequently face socioeconomic barriers preventing them from receiving the care they deserve. Therefore, UCI clinicians conduct health services research to discover new ways to make treatment more cost-effective while ensuring it is accessible to the entire community. Health services research can focus on various challenges, such as making the care more affordable, improving treatment for the underserved, or uncovering hidden social disparities. Integrating the latest advances in health services research at UCI alleviates the anxiety and burden that patients and their loved one's experience trying to access and afford their cancer treatment.
Cancer patients are living longer than ever. Survivorship focuses on practical issues related to quality of life that may arise or need to be optimized after completion of treatment. For instance, researchers may study how energy levels or mood can be altered after a cancer diagnosis or treatment. Survivorship research is all about finding ways to help cancer survivors adjust to a new normal after cure of their cancer.
The field of radiation oncology provides an outstanding opportunity to explore the question of medical quality, and through that understanding, improve it and the underlying issues that more broadly affect medical quality. Radiation oncology outcomes are dependent on getting the right dose to the right place. And like any other branch of medicine, it is essential that the correct dose be given to get the desired effect. When patient outcomes have been reviewed in the clinical trial setting, it has been repeatedly shown that patients who received optimal radiotherapy care have much better survival outcomes than those whose treatments have deficiencies. These data show that the risk of suboptimal quality is clearly affecting patients.
Technology has always had an intrinsic and pivotal role in the development of radiation therapy. After the discovery of X‐rays and radioactivity, the long road toward modern high‐tech radiation oncology was studded with continuous discoveries, integrating innovative ideas and technology solutions from several disciplines including biology and physics. These technological advances continue to this day as research continually focuses on the ability to target cancer more precisely than ever before. Areas under active investigation at UCI include motion management, surface visualization, peripheral dose exposure, heavy particle usage, oligometastasis, and stem cell distribution.