Professor of Nuclear and Radiological Engineering
College of Engineering
Ionizing radiation is a powerful tool in the detection and treatment of cancer and other diseases. But ionizing radiation may cause carcinogenic changes in tissue, so its use must be optimized in diagnostic and therapeutic uses.
Wesley Bolch’s research is focused on the development of more anatomically realistic and scalable computational models of the medical patient that can then be used for dose optimization in clinical settings.
“We know from studies of past radiation exposure that the tissues of children are more radiosensitive than those of adult patients,” says Bolch. “At the same time, advances in medical imaging and radiation therapy have increasingly been applied to pediatric patients over the past 10 to 15 years. Unfortunately, the computational tools needed to assess tissue dose in children undergoing radiation therapy treatments have been limited.”
So Bolch and his colleagues developed the first complete series of computational “phantoms” of pediatric patient anatomy needed to perform computer simulations of medical exams and therapies, which utilize ionized radiation.
The use of radionuclides tagged to antibodies that bind to cancer cell antigens is another area of advancement in the treatment of cancer.
“One obstacle to this form of radiation therapy, however, is the onset of bone marrow toxicity in patients,” says Bolch. “To assemble dose response relationships between marrow dose and toxicity, patient-specific models of marrow dosimetry are needed.”
Bolch and his laboratory have been funded to develop new image-based computation models of skeletal tissues for the adult cancer patient population.