Investigating biochemical signatures of radiation resistance in human breast and prostate cancers via single cell Raman spectroscopy

Radiation therapy is the recommended treatment for about one-third of all cancer patients, including those with breast and prostate cancer. One factor limiting the use of radiation therapy is the considerable difference in radiation response between patients. There are currently no proven biochemical or imaging methods to assess a cancer patient's radiation response during an extended radiation therapy treatment. There is a need to develop customized radiation treatments to accommodate the variations in radiation response from individual patients; however, implementing such personalized treatments requires a better understanding of the fundamental biochemical responses of human tumour cells to ionizing radiation. Dr. Quinn Matthews is investigating the use of Raman spectroscopy as a way to monitor radiation responses in cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy. Raman spectroscopy is a non-invasive technique that shows great promise for the biochemical analysis of cellular radiation responses, as it can provide sensitive molecular information from biological samples, such as human cells or tissues. Recent laboratory studies have shown that single-cell Raman spectroscopy techniques applied to irradiated cells can detect radiation-induced changes in certain proteins, lipids and nucleic acids within human prostate, breast and lung tumour cells. These results suggest that certain types of radiation-induced biochemical changes measured with Raman spectroscopy are correlated with tumour-cell resistance to radiation treatment. The goal of Dr. Matthews' research project is to apply the proven capabilities of Raman spectroscopy to investigate the biochemical radiation response of a variety of human breast and prostate cancers, irradiated both in vitro (in the lab) and in vivo (in the organism). The results of this research will lead to increased effectiveness of radiation therapy by facilitating the development of personalized adaptive treatments designed to account for individual radiation response.