... / Radiotherapy / Radiobiology research

Radiobiology research

Claire WymanClaire Wyman, Nanobiologist

"During radiotherapy DNA of tumor cells is being damaged, causing the cells to die. Just like healthy cells, tumor cells have multiple mechanisms to repair DNA damage. In my research group we try to find out precisely how these repair mechanisms work. Our results can then help to improve anti-cancer treatments such as radiotherapy. Repairing DNA damage in cells is done by proteins, tiny machines of a few nanometers. That is a thousand times smaller than a hair! To really understand how these proteins work, we would like to see what they are doing. That is not possible with a normal microscope. Fortunately, the Optical Imaging Center of the Erasmus MC has advanced microscopes that allow use to make pictures and movies of proteins inside a cell. Our research is being driven by curiosity, so we cannot tell in advance how it will benefit patients. On the other hand, fundamental research can also have surprising connections to the clinic. Researchers found that a certain repair protein got destroyed if cells were heated slightly. That result lit up the light bulbs: there already is a treatment for cancer that involves heating tumors, called hyperthermia. And indeed, the destruction of the repair protein turned out to be one of the explanations for the effectiveness of this treatment. This new insight allows optimizing existing hyperthermia treatments.
Our team published a new technique showing how a particular individual protein is moving around in a cell.
To compare, a fire truck cannot do anything until it gets to the fire. But how does it move through the busy traffic? The same question can be asked for repair proteins. Using experiments that really pushed the edges of what we could detect, we now visualized the movements of the protein in living cells."

More information about our research.