The UCI Department of Radiation Oncology is organized into 3 Divisions, under the leadership of the Chair, Dr. Allen Chen, each of which contribute to the core missions of the Department as a whole. The Division of Clinical Radiation Oncology prides itself on providing top notch care utilizing the most advanced therapies for cancer patients. The Division of Medical Physics oversees all maintenance, calibration, and quality assurance of treatment machines and technical planning systems and software. The Division of Radiobiology is comprised of several basic science laboratories engaged in cutting-edge cancer research with the aim of discovering better therapies for the future and helping to translate them into the clinical setting. The Department is also home to Orange County’s only educational residency training program in Radiation Oncology.
Division of Clinical Radiation Oncology
UCI Department of Radiation Oncology has built a strong reputation for providing superb patient care and for integrating translational research, medical physics, and advanced technologies into treatment. Our reputation for personalized care through innovation stands second to none.
The Department also recognizes that outstanding radiation treatment requires a team approach. Each patient is cared for by a team of physicians, registered nurses, certified radiation therapists, physicists and dosimetrists. Working together, the department customizes each patient’s treatment plan and assures patient safety and comfort.
Notably, UCI Radiation Oncology was amongst the first to offer intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) for cancer patients (in the early-1990s) and has a long track-record of irradiating using this sophisticate technology. UCI was also one of the first to implement respiratory gating using breath-hold for patients with tumors close to the lung and heart.
Most recently, UCI Radiation Oncology was the first center in Southern California to implement the Ambient patient experience, as well as to utilize AlignRT, a propriety 3-dimensional visualization system, which has eliminated the necessity of once-widely used tattoos and provides clear positional guidance from multiple angles to enhance patient positioning and precision.
All of our clinical faculty focus on the treatment of particular disease sites in order to provide a higher level of expertise for patients. Many are working closely with our laboratory scientists, and divide their time between patient care and serving as conduits to innovative bench research with the hope of developing better cancer treatments in the future. Due to their expertise, our clinical faculty are frequently requested speakers at venues across the world.
Technologically, the department is one of the most comprehensive radiotherapy treatment centers in the country, with advanced tools and procedures that include stereotactic Body radiotherapy (SBRT), accelerated partial breast irradiation, IMRT, and high-dose rate brachytherapy. An emphasis of the department is on the development of high-impact, "ground-breaking" clinical trials for patients with both routine and difficult to treat cancers throughout the body. For example, our department has a long history of offering re-irradiation to areas of the body that had been previously irradiated.
As a tertiary care center, we are able to offer treatments that community centers simply cannot.
The Department also offers a wide array of services that many others do not provide. These include the only intraoperative radiotherapy device in Orange County, radioactive implantation of Y-90 sources for difficult to reach regions, interstitial brachytherapy, and total body irradiation. In 2021, the Department will be starting its GammaTile program. More excitedly, the installation of the FLASH electron unit is expected. Once installed, UCI will have the third unit in the entire country and allow investigators to pioneer new treatments!
Through our investments in science and technology, UCI Radiation Oncology is committed to providing patients the treatment and support services they need to achieve the best possible outcomes. Personalized medicine means that no two patients are ever treated similarly. Ultimately, our meticulous attention to detail and our commitment to customizing care to each individual patient are what sets our clinical division apart.
Division of Medical Physics
The Division of Medical Physics works tirelessly to improve the efficacy and efficiency of radiation therapy through high-quality clinical service, the implementation of improved treatment planning and delivery technologies, and research programs.
The primary mission of the medical physics team is to ensure that therapeutic radiation is being administered properly to patients while monitoring exposure to the staff and general public. In their role, medical physicists are consulted by radiation oncologists and radiation therapists to provide advice as to the best use of medical radiation for treatment and protection. Radiation oncology medical physicists make sure that all equipment meets international and national conditions so that the radiation dose recommended by the radiation oncologist and planned by the radiation therapist can be delivered to the patient correctly.
The team oversees all technological equipment in the department and works closely alongside physicians. Quality assurance and safety are two terms synonymous with medical physicists. These specialists are most typically involved with the safe operation and quality of systems used for imaging and treatment of patients. This can include machines such as linear accelerators, CT scanners, superficial X-ray machines, treatment computer systems and radioactive materials. The medical physicists are also responsible for maintaining safety logs and developing protocols to ensure that radiation delivery is being done as safely and accurately as possible. They also work closely with information technology and engineering staff to ensure all the sophisticated radiotherapy equipment and computers are working correctly and linked together correctly. Although much of the work performed by medical physicists is done behind the scenes, they are an integral part of the Radiation Oncology team. In addition to clinical service and research collaborations at UCI, the Division of Medical Physics offers a two-year Radiation Oncology residency program for medical physicists.
The Division of Radiation and Cancer Biology's mission is to educate and train the next cadre of scientists and clinicians in the disciplines of radiation and cancer biology and to execute a multidisciplinary program of research focused on understanding the molecular, cellular, and organismal responses to ionizing radiation exposure for the betterment of humankind. Ground-breaking, correlative research is performed by basic science faculty within our department aimed at further understanding and harnessing what we know about biology into advances in the clinic. The Department also maintains a prospective collection of biological material for translational research.
The Department ranks among the top programs in the country with respect to grant funding with a portfolio of nearly 15M dollars and is the home to the NIH’s only multi-institutional P01 dedicated to the investigation of FLASH radiotherapy. Currently, the Department has 5 Ph.D. radiobiologists in addition to a growing clinical research team. Approximately 3,000 square feet of laboratory space is available to support ongoing research. The Department houses a biospecimen repository, small animal irradiator, and has access to core resources as an integral part of the NCI-designated Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Strong collaborations exist between the Department and the UCI Beckman Laser Institute, the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, and the In-vivo Functional Onco-Imaging Facility. A strong tradition of campus-based invention and entrepreneurship has been promoted through the UCI Beall Applied Innovation Center.
Specific areas of research within the division include:
- Normal tissue damage from radiation
- The molecular mechanisms responsible for repairing DNA damage
- Molecular signaling after radiation exposure
- Stem cell biology
- Radiation resistance and radiation sensitization
- Prognostic and predictive biomarkers of therapeutic outcome
- Intrinsic radio-sensitivity
- The role of hypoxia in radiation response
- Functional imaging of tumors
- Combining immune therapy with radiation for cancer therapy
- Developing new cellular and animal models for radiation biology research
- The role of the inflammatory response after radiation
- Cosmic space radiation exposure