Radiation Oncology

student in labPenn Radiation Oncology is dedicated to a three-part mission of excellence in patient care, basic and translational research, and the education of residents, medical, graduate and undergraduate students. Penn Radiation Oncology is particularly proud of its research program. We are committed to developing new biological and physical approaches for improving radiation therapy and bringing these advances to the clinic to directly benefit our patients. In particular, our department is internationally known for developing novel approaches to biologically target molecular pathways and, thereby, enhance the effect of radiation on tumor cells, without increasing normal tissue toxicity. Penn's work in tumor hypoxia and the tumor microenvironment is well recognized in the oncology research community, as are its programs in photodynamic therapy, radioprotection and DNA damage and repair.

Proton therapy represents one of sciences most sophisticated weapons in the war on cancer. Opened in 2010, the Roberts Proton Therapy Center is the largest, most advanced facility of its kind anywhere in the world, and the only proton therapy center fully integrated with a National Cancer Institute designated comprehensive cancer center. The center has 5 clinical gantries for patient treatment and a dedicated research room that is fully outfitted for animal and cell studies.

Oncolink is the premier online resource for patients and physicians across the globe to find comprehensive information on coping with cancer including; conventional and experimental treatment options, research advances and survivorship. Oncolink was developed and is supported by the Department of Radiation Oncology at Penn.

The long-range mission of the Radiation Oncology Research Program at the University of Pennsylvania is to improve the outcome of cancer patients through an improved understanding of how ionizing and non-ionizing radiation interacts with biological tissues, as well as the fundamental process that dictate the pathogenesis, survival and death of cancer cells. Multiple investigators are brought together in this program to identify the molecular and physiological pathways influencing the response to treatment of tumors and normal tissues. Ongoing efforts are targeted at developing treatments and imaging approaches that can be used in clinical medicine to improve patient outcome. Our program is unique in the breadth and depth of the research available and in the wealth of collaborative activities, from molecular studies in gene expression and chromatin modifiers to translational projects involving animal models, as well as clinical trials. The research division is primarily housed in the Smilow Center for Translational Research, a quick elevator ride from the Departments' Clinical offices and treatment facilities. Research in the Department is therefore truly "bench-to-bedside".


Penn’s Department of Radiology stands at the pinnacle of academic radiology. Led by an outstanding faculty, the Department excels in education, research and clinical research. Radiology has a deep commitment to developing and disseminating expertise in imaging. The research program in the Department is widely regarded as one of the top Radiology research programs in the world. Its overall strength comes from it multidisciplinary focus and close integration between clinical, basic science and technology-driven research programs.

Research in the Department focuses on a wide spectrum of diseases, with considerable strength in the areas of cancer, including animal modeling and cellular, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, neurofunctional imaging. The department also focuses on developing new imaging methodologies and technologies. There is an active imaging training program that collaborates with the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Bioengineering, Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Physics.

Biomedical Imaging Research at Penn is focused around the Center for Biomedical Imaging (CBI). The CBI is broken down into three divisions: Basic research, translational research and imaging core facilities. Basic research laboratories use imaging to study normal and abnormal cellular function. There is also an extensive program using animal models to study human disease. Translational research includes programs developed with Radiology’s clinical disease oriented centers to apply basic radiology research and newly developed methods and equipment to advance patient care. Together Radiation Oncology and Radiology researchers have ranked Number 1 or 2 in National Institutes of Health grant funding among all comparable programs in the United States .

Abramson Cancer Center

Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) was established by a gift from the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Family. The Abramson Cancer Center creates an environment where research advances and patient care are intertwined, so that patients benefit from leading-edge treatment options while being cared for in a way that is intensely personal. The Abramson Cancer Center is designated as an NCI comprehensive Cancer Center. The cancer center enjoys a vibrant, well-funded research base, focused on reducing cancer incidence, mortality and morbidity, and improving our ability to prevent, treat and diagnose cancer. The ACC is also heavily focused on training the next generation of cancer researchers. Nationally the Abramson Cancer Center ranks fifth in funding from the National Cancer Institute and fourth in funding provided by the American Cancer Society.

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania supports eleven Research Programs that bring together investigators from 41 departments and 8 University schools with a shared interest in specific types of cancer (e.g., breast cancer) or scientific themes (e.g., tumor biology).

The Radiobiology and Imaging Program

Radiobiology and Imaging Program  is one of the 11 core programs supported by the ACC. The Program is devoted to understanding the molecular, cellular and tissue mechanisms that underlie the response to both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. It provides a framework for both basic and translational research. The goals of the program are to: develop molecular targets for manipulating the response of tumors to drugs and ionizing radiation; understand how signal transduction events lead to resistance of tumors to killing by ionizing radiation; understand the effects of p53 in regulating gene expression and apoptosis and the tissue specific effects of p53 expression; understand the mechanisms regulating mitosis and cytokinesis and how they respond to ionizing radiation; develop clinical trials for photodynamic therapy and understand the underlying molecular mechanisms that underlie its use and the physics involved in light delivery; develop mechanisms for measuring tumor oxygenation and metabolic status, both to understand how these factors influence patient outcome and to determine whether tumor metabolic status might be manipulated in the clinical setting; understand how tumor angiogenesis is regulated both by hypoxia and oncogene expression in tumors; and study the molecular events in the damage response to DNA damage by ionizing radiation looking at chromatin remodeling among other effects.

Perelman School of Medicine

The Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) at the University of Pennsylvania is the oldest and one of the finest medical schools in the United States. The Perelman School of Medicine is rich in tradition and heritage and, at the same time, consistently at the forefront of new developments and innovations in medical education and research. Since its founding in 1765, the School has been a strong presence in the community and prides itself on educating the leaders of tomorrow in patient care, biomedical research, and medical education. The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania consistently ranks among the top five in US News and World Report’s rankings of research-oriented medical schools. The Perelman School of Medicine is home to 1,900 full-time faculty members, 700+ medical students and 1,000+ residents and fellows, 750+ PhD and another 180+ MD-PhD students, along with more than 700 post-doctoral fellows. The Perelman School of medicine ranks second in the nation among academic medical centers in NIH research funding with an average of $500M in annual support.

The Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) at the Perelman School of Medicine serves as the academic home to students pursuing a PhD or MD/PhD in the basic biomedical sciences. Although BGS is housed within the Perelman School of Medicine, its 600+ faculty members come from all seven Penn schools and associated institutes. BGS provides training and administration through seven graduate groups, each of which has its own training mission, leadership, and staff, but there is often significant overlap among the groups in respect to faculty membership, courses offered, policies, and procedures.

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