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2013 Annual Meeting Press Release
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September 20, 2013

The annual meetings of the Radiation Research Society bring together hundreds of renowned scientists from multiple disciplines with a common interest –radiation sciences and their impact on human health and disease. The research presented at these meetings is not just of academic interest but also has immediate implications for everyone on this planet, whether it is in the clinical use of radiation to treat cancer, or in the cancer-causing potential of low doses of radiation used diagnostically. Thus, the Society has initiated with this first dispatch covering the 2013 annual meeting, a series of press releases to make the general public aware of the most pertinent research presented at these meetings as well as research published by society members throughout the year.

More than 600 scientists met in New Orleans 15-18 September for the 59th Annual meeting of the Radiation Research Society. Chemists, physicists, biologists and physicians gathered to discuss late-breaking ideas and studies regarding radiation health risks, descriptions of space radiation risks, and applications of radiation in medicine, which were underpinned by new insights into fundamental biological mechanisms.

Dr. Dale Preston (Hirosoft International Corporation) discussed the cancer incidence observed in exposed human populations. A new meta-analysis, which combines data from several populations exposed to radiation, suggest that the estimated cancer risk per unit dose is similar for either acute or protracted exposures. This analysis underscores the ongoing debate on whether comparing health effects from equivalent doses delivered over significantly different time intervals should mandate a change in current protection policies.

Radiation risks for the central nervous system are a long-time concern after the high doses used in brain tumor treatment, and for astronauts exposed to cosmic rays. However. new concerns about potential health effects from lower doses of ionizing radiation were raised based on observations of changes in neuronal structures and related cognitive deficits evident in irradiated animals (Dr. Charles Limoli, U.C. Irvine). The potential for accelerating Alzheimer’s disease was described by Dr. Kerry O’Banion (Rochester University, New York). He and others find that plaques related to Alzheimer’s disease occur much earlier in brain tissue when susceptible mice are irradiated using simulated cosmic rays. Dr. Amelia Eisch (UT Southwestern) showed new findings that radiation similar to that experienced by astronauts kills new neurons in the brain, and reviewed preliminary findings in mice that under certain conditions space radiation can actually improve, rather than decrease, some brain functioning. Dr. Cary Zeitlin (Southwest Research Institute) presented the latest calculations of the radiation exposures that astronauts will be subjected to from cosmic rays in transit to Mars and on the martian surface.

Understanding how radiotherapy controls cancer was the subject of many sessions. More than 50% of cancer patients receive radiation therapy to cure or effectively control localized disease. Dr. Joseph Cullen (University of Iowa) showed exciting new data that IV administration of pharmacological doses of vitamin C could be well tolerated in human pancreatic cancer patients as well as data in animal models with human pancreas cancers that pharmacological vitamin C could act as an effective radio-sensitizer differentially cytotoxic to tumor cells, but not normal tissues. Furthermore, exciting new data presented by Dr. Sandra Demaria (New York University School of Medicine) indicated that radiation treatment can be a potent means to activate a patient’s immune system, which provides additional benefit to control disseminated systemic disease. Dr. David Gewirtz (Virginia Commonwealth University) described how basic understanding of autophagy, a new unique form of cell death, could be used to improve therapeutic strategies for radiosensitization in cancer therapy. Finally a new appreciation that radiation affects cellular metabolic processes was discussed by Dr. Douglas Wallace (University of Pennsylvania), who argued that this mechanism provides insight into persistent radiation responses that involve accelerated carcinogenesis and aging phenomena.

Information on the Annual Meeting can be found at the RRS Web page:

Francis Cucinotta RRS President
University of Nevada Las Vegas
Dept. of Health Physics and Diagnostic Sciences
Las Vegas, NV 89154
(702) 895-0977

Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff- RRS Media Committee Chairperson
450 East 29th Street
Alexandria, 324
New York, NY 10016
(212) 263-3021 


Point of context for scientific content

Joseph Cullen

Dept. of Surgery
200 Hawkins Dr
Iowa City, IA 52242
(319) 384-7359

Sandra Demaria
Dept of Pathology and Radiation Oncology
450 East 29th Street, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10016
(212) 263-7308

Amelia Eisch
5323 Harry Hines Blvd
Dallas, TX 75390-9070
(214) 648-5549

David Gewirtz
Goodwin Research Labs Room 321
401 College Street
Richmond, VA 23298-0035
(804) 828-9523

Charles Limoli
Dept. of Radiation Oncology
Medical Sciences I, B-146B
Irvine, CA 92697-2695
(949) 824-3053

Kerry O'Banion
Dept. of Neurobiology and Anatomy
601 Elwood Ave Box 603
Rochester, NY 14642
(585) 275-5185

Dale Preston
1335 H St
Eureka, CA 95501-2331
(707) 476-8648

Cary Zeitlin
1050 Walnut Street
Boulder, CO 80302
(510) 325-3836

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