Each of the 12 modules is delivered over a period of one or two weeks and together comprise the core content of the course. Lectures will be led by local, national and international experts supported by tutorials, laboratory demonstrations and practical sessions to provide a wide knowledge and understanding of radiation biology. Fundamental radiation biology is taught in the first term (Michaelmas), while the second term (Hilary) builds on this knowledge, focussing on the translation into clinical practice, along with an introduction to state-of-the-art techniques and research.
Each module will provide students with a detailed understanding of a specific area of radiation biology:
- Physics and Chemistry of Radiation Action: The module aims to give the student an understanding of the physics and chemistry of ionising radiation in particular its interactions with macromolecules such as DNA, cells and humans in the context of medical imaging, radiation oncology and radiation protection. (Module lead: Mark Hill)
- Molecular Radiation Biology: The module aims to give the student an understanding of the types of lesions produced by ionising radiation, how they are recognised, molecular repair systems available within cells and the consequences of errors in this process. This includes the various molecular processes involved in the cycling and death of normal and tumour cells, signal transduction cascades involved in cancer cell proliferation and the role of oncogenes & tumour suppressor genes in carcinogenesis. (Module lead: Tim Humphrey)
- Cellular Radiation Biology: The module aims to give students an understanding of the response of cells to irradiation, the ways of characterising the response as a function of dose, radiation type, and the effects of physical modifiers of response (dose-rate, fractionation) as well as chemical modifiers (oxygen, radical scavengers). (Module leads: Mark Hill & Bleddyn Jones)
- Normal Tissue and Applied Radiation Biology: The module describes the pathogenesis of normal tissue reactions to radiation, strategies for protection and mitigation, including the use of fractionated schedules of radiotherapy, along with the calculation of equivalent or improved modified schedules. (Module lead: Bleddyn Jones)
- Whole Body Exposure and Carcinogenesis: The module describes the biology underpinning the response of the human body to ionising radiation exposures. This includes the effects of whole-body irradiation, biodosimetric methods, radiation-induced carcinogenesis and its molecular mechanisms, non-cancer radiation effects and the radiobiological and medical considerations required to deal with significant accidental radiation exposures. (Module lead: Liz Ainsbury, Public Health England)
- Radiation Epidemiology: The module provides students with a solid foundation in the use of epidemiological studies to determine the consequences of exposure to radiation. It also provides students with an overview of the major studies that have been carried out to date, study methods, limitations and some of the current issues in radiation epidemiology. Students will obtain the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to evaluate epidemiological studies . (Module lead: Richard Wakeford)
- Imaging Technologies: A description of the different types of imaging methods available, an understanding of their underlying physical and biological principles, and their relative benefits and limitations in particular applications. Technologies covered include optical microscopy, computed tomography, positron emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging. (Module lead: Bart Cornelissen)
- Tumour Microenvironment: Detailed concepts of the tumour microenvironment, the influence of tumour hypoxia, and ways to overcome its detrimental effects in treatment strategies. This includes normal oxygen physiology and metabolism, how this differs in the tumour, along with implications for radiotherapy and associated treatment strategies (Module lead: Geoff Higgins)
- Applications of Radiation Therapy: The rationale for the use of new radiotherapy techniques such as targeted radiotherapy using unsealed sources, Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), tomotherapy, Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) and Magnetic Resonance Radiation Therapy (MR-RT), combinations with chemotherapeutic approaches and also the use of charged particle therapy. (Module Lead: Frank van den Heuvel)
- Translational Radiation Biology: The development of new biologically-based techniques that are being translated from the laboratory to clinical use. This includes personalised medicine, gene therapy, along with recent research on the ultra-high dose rate FLASH radiotherapy and the expanding field of immunotherapy. (Module lead: Eileen Parkes)
- Clinical Radiation Biology: The module covers the principles of radiation oncology, clinical trials in radiotherapy and their design, late effects, clinical development of technical radiotherapy with a particular emphasis on selected tumours. (Module lead: Tim Maughan)
- Radiation Protection: The module provides students with an understanding of how scientific knowledge has been used to build an international system of protection for stochastic and deterministic tissue effects and how this system is translated and applied in UK legislation. A particular focus is their practical implementation for protection in medicine, for the diagnostic and therapeutic use of unsealed and sealed sources and ends by considering response arrangements for accidents and emergencies. (Module lead: John Harrison)
Additional demonstration and practical sessions are scheduled to enable students to learn specific techniques used in this specialist subject area.
This course is reviewed annually and subject to minor changes in response to feedback and evaluation.