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Radiation risks to patients treated with Radium-223

Bone related cancers are common and represent a wide spectrum of malignant disease. Radium-223 (223Ra) is a form of ionising radiation which selectively targets to bone-cancer sites where it very effectively causes the malignant cancer cells to die. The success of this new therapy in improving patient survival in prostate cancer patients is creating a great deal of excitement whereby its therapeutic use may be broadened to include other cancers with bone disease including those in younger patients. Immature blood cells, which mature into all of the different cell types of the peripheral blood, reside in the bone marrow (BM). Immature blood cells therefore sit close to radioactive-targeted cells of the bone which means that they are potentially at risk of radiation exposure as a consequence of this treatment. To date, the risks of such exposure on long-term BM complications such as secondary, treatment-related leukaemia are unknown.

Key objectives of the proposed research are (i) whether cells of the haemopoietic system are directly (or indirectly) exposed to 223Ra upon uptake into bone metastases and (ii), whether there is any evidence for the occurrence of radiation-induced genomic instability. These will be addressed in two ways. Firstly, whole blood will be sampled from prostate cancer (PCa) patients treated with 223Ra and secondly, we will irradiate a human 3D tissue culture model of BM in vitro. A range of cytogenetic techniques will be employed including multiplex fluorescence in situ hybridisation (M-FISH) to ascertain the frequency of transmissible radiation-induced chromosome aberrations. This will provide evidence of previous 223Ra (α-particle) exposure to the BM. Additional techniques employed may include the quantification of micronuclei, DNA damage foci and inflammatory cytokine secretion to examine for any radiation-induced bystander effect. Findings from this study will be used to determine whether 223Ra treatment results in any exposure to the BM and if so, to make estimations of the radiation dose and also, any potential long-terms risks of this.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.


Dr Rhona Anderson - Qualifications: -
  • FHEA, Brunel University London
  • PhD, Brunel University London
  • MSc, University of Aberdeen
  • BSc (Hons), University of Strathclyde

Professional Qualification

  • Certified Clinical Cytogeneticist (ACCCC)
Appointments -
  •  2019: Reader in Radiation Biology, Brunel University London, UK
  • 2016: Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, Brunel University London, UK
  • 2005: Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, Brunel University London, UK
  • 1996 - 2005: Research Associate, MRC Radiation and Genome Stability Unit, Harwell, UK