ASTRO has been working hard to better understand the research funding landscape for radiation oncology researchers. To that end, we recently performed a thorough portfolio analysis, and are excited to share the results with you.
Is there a cutting edge topic in radiation oncology that the field should begin discussing? ASTRO Think Tanks may be a good format to start the discussion. These Think Tanks are one-day meetings held at the ASTRO Headquarters in Arlington, Va. If you have a topic that you think may fit this format, submit a short proposal.
What do radiation oncologists who attended the ASTRO Annual Meeting think is the most important research question that must be answered in the next three to five years? Check out the responses.
Curing cancer and maintaining high quality of life for patients with cancer are the foremost goals of those in radiation oncology. Research in radiation oncology improvements in technology and therapy that have led to improved outcomes and patient care and a reduction in toxicity and detrimental side effects.
Because there are still many unanswered questions, ASTRO has outlined six key areas of research of interest for the radiation oncology field.
Collecting, processing, storing and presenting clinical data on previously treated patients in a learning health system environment will be a powerful tool in our path toward precision medicine. Genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics data may all be integral in finding effective treatments or even cures for specific malignancies.
Research topics of interest include:
Patient-centered healthcare and health services research are increasingly driving clinical trial design, data acquisition and regulatory process considerations. These enhance the quality of care and improve patient engagement in both treatment and research. Increasingly, big data that includes patient reported outcomes is used to determine the best treatment strategy that provides the best quality of care.
The environment in which the tumor lives can have a large impact on tumor growth and metastasis and may alter responses to therapy. Understanding the influence of the tumor microenvironment, how the immune system controls tumor growth (the abscopal effect) and the impact of metabolism on radiation therapy outcomes is necessary to improve treatment efficacy and patient outcomes. Likewise, the study of radiation effects on normal tissue and on tissue vascularization will provide better understanding of how to eliminate or avoid toxicities.
Visualizing a tumor and accurately delivering radiation to the tumor site with better efficiency while avoiding damage to adjacent normal tissues is the goal of every radiation oncology
treatment. Improving technology and treatment modalities that increase the efficacy while decreasing the toxicity to normal tissues is a primary area of research focus.
Precision medicine is redefining treatment options and treatment regimens for patients. Increasingly, patients receive treatments based on the profile of their disease (genomics of the tumor,
location, morphology). Understanding how changes in the genome could alter radiation treatment effects will have a large impact on cancer therapy. Learning how to best use genomic tools in radiation therapy will lead to better patient outcomes.
For some tumors, treating with one modality is not enough. Combinations that include multiple modalities (radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy) provide the best
option for success. There is still much to learn about what combinations are most effective for any given tumor. New data is emerging that radiation in combination with chemotherapy or immunotherapy provides a much safer and longer-lasting solution to eliminate cancer growth and metastasis.