Of what use is molecular biology to the practicing radiation oncologist?

C. Norman Coleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and purpose: We are in a period of rapid advance in understanding the basic mechanisms behind the induction and progression of cancer. The relevance of this new knowledge to the daily clinical practice of radiation oncology may not necessarily be readily apparent. Familiarity with a few of the concepts of molecular biology and biochemistry are necessary to fully appreciate the clinical relevance of the new biology. Methods and results: To illustrate how the new knowledge affects the practice of radiation oncology, examples of the use of molecular biology are presented for different clinical aspects of clinical oncology, i.e. screening and prevention, prognostic factors, predictive factors, treatment decision, novel therapy and follow-up. A number of the molecular biology techniques are illustrated. Conclusions: The advances from molecular biology directly impact the role of radiation oncologists in the clinic. While major new therapies are still in development in the laboratory, these will likely have a very significant role in patient care and cancer prevention in the not-too- distant future. Given the central role of radiation oncologists in cancer management, a basic knowledge of molecular biology techniques and their application is essential so that we can be current with our colleagues and patients and as a specialty, participate actively in improving the outcome of patients with or at risk of developing cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-125
Number of pages9
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998


  • Clinical applications
  • Molecular biology
  • Radiation oncologist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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