Rhythmic radiotherapy: Tackling glioblastoma by changing the interval of treatments

Dr Jamie Dean
Project period
Feb 2023 - Dec 2024
Research Institute
University College London
Cancer types
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Jamie Dean and his team are investigating how the timing of radiotherapy doses could be crucial to slowing down the growth of tumours. If successful, they hope to increase the effectiveness of radiotherapy for patients with glioblastoma.

Hope for the future

Glioblastoma is one of the most common and aggressive brain tumours. Patients with glioblastoma are treated with surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. However, some of the cells are able to resist these treatments – the tumours grow back, and sadly many patients die around one year later.

Dr Jamie Dean and his team are investigating if, by changing the way we use radiotherapy, we could find a better way to treat glioblastoma. Radiotherapy is normally delivered once per day as part of a course of treatment, but Dr Dean wants to test using multiple doses in the same day. The researchers hope that studying how the cancer cells react could reveal a way to make radiotherapy work better for more patients.

Meet the scientist

After studying physics at university, Dr Dean started training to use radiotherapy and medical imaging in a specialist cancer hospital. This inspired his move into cancer research, where he hoped to help develop even better treatments for patients. Dr Dean has two young children that keep him busy outside of the lab – he says what used to be hiking and music gigs has been replaced with trips to the park and kitchen discos!

The science

Radiotherapy is a gold-standard treatment for glioblastoma, and usually involves daily sessions over the course of several weeks. Interestingly, a recent study showed that mice with glioblastoma survived significantly longer when they were given multiple doses a day, with three hour gaps in between. This method is called ‘oscillatory radiotherapy’.

Dr Jamie Dean and his team aim to study this potentially ground-breaking effect and find out how it helps improve survival. Dr Dean believes it might be like the effect of pushing someone on a swing at the right time – if you can find the right spacing of ‘pushes’, you might have a greater effect on the cells’ internal signals that instruct it to stop growing or die.

The researchers will measure how glioblastoma cells respond differently when treated with normal radiotherapy versus the new oscillatory radiotherapy. Then, they will find out which molecules in the cell are responsible for any change in effect. Dr Dean hopes that this will reveal a new timing method for radiotherapy, how we could use specific drugs to help, and ultimately how to help patients survive glioblastoma for longer.

The whole research team and I want to express our sincere gratitude for all of your support. Your generous donations allow us to conduct innovative multidisciplinary research, combining techniques from mathematics and biology, and make new discoveries into how to improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy for treating the brain tumour glioblastoma. We hope that our discoveries will help future glioblastoma patients live longer.
Dr Jamie Dean

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