Protecting patients through improved radiotherapy protection

  • radiation protection

    Professor Munira Kadhim

    Since the discovery of x-rays, researchers in the field of radiation biology have, for over a century, developed their understanding of biological effects of ionizing radiation through an intuitive mathematical model known as target theory.

    However, pioneering research undertaken by Munira Kadhim, Professor in Radiation Biology at Oxford Brookes, and colleagues at MRC Harwell has added a new dimension to radiobiology by establishing a model based on the non-targeted effects of radiation. This work has had an extensive impact on health risk assessment and clinical radiotherapy, considering new lower dosage levels to protect patient health. 

    The risk from low-dose ionizing radiation is of major societal concern. All living things, including humans are exposed continuously to environmental background radiation as well as artificial sources, such as medical equipment for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. A particular concern is the inconsistency between individual damage and response to radiation (targeted and non-targeted) due to their differing genetic make-up; this has implications for environmental risk assessment and therapeutic design.

    The work of Professor Kadhim and colleagues has changed the conventional model of a hit-effect relationship for radiation, moving away from a model in which radiation energy must be deposited in the nucleus in order to produce a biological effect, to a new model that incorporates radiation`s non-targeted effects (NTE).

    The global framework for radiation protection leading to the societal impact is based on underpinning science evaluated in 2012 by United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). Kadhim`s work on NTE was cited in their White Paper making recommendations to guide their future programme.

    Influencing clinical guidelines in the UK

    In addition to her international reputation, Kadhim`s expertise and competence has been recognised by the UK government. In 2012 she was appointed to the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE), which is responsible for advising Government on the health effects of natural and manmade radiation, as well as drafting advice for the general public.

    Through her work on the COMARE she was involved in the preparation of a key report to the Department of Health (DoH) concerning radiation doses from CT scanners in the UK in 2013.

    CT is currently the main source of man-made radiation exposure in western countries and is a major concern for radiation protection. The report made recommendations for the DoH on clinical guidelines, and therefore had profound implications for health and welfare, in the context that clinical and public health guidelines must ensure a fine balance between the beneficial effects of the use of CT in clinics against the potential risk for both patients and clinic operators.

    Professor Kadhim’s current research is investigating radiation induced cataract formation, which is a very novel field with limited understanding. It is believed this work has potential to influence dose limits for the eye.

    Find out more

    Read more about the full Impact Case Study on RADAR.

    Further information on the University’s Department of Biological and Medical Sciences can be found on their website.

    More information about Professor Kadhim can be found on her profile page.