Radiobiology is the field of science concerning the biological effects of radiation. This includes ionizing radiation (e.g X-rays, gamma rays and alpha particle irradiation) and non-ionizing radiation (e.g UV-radiation and hyperthermia).
Radiobiology Research in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands a wide range of radiobiology research is performed from basic science to preclinical translational research. The aim is to obtain a better understanding of the damage that radiation induces and how cells and organisms respond to such damage. Considerable research is carried out in order to improve radiotherapy, a type of cancer therapy that uses radiation to kill cancer cells. The most important target of ionizing radiation is the DNA. The DNA damage response from induction to repair of the lesions is studied. Results are used to develop strategies to modulate this repair in order to improve radiotherapy. Furthermore, preclinical research is carried out to understand the radio-resistance of some types of cancer and to overcome this problem. E.g. by combination with chemotherapeutic agents and /or hyperthermia. Other areas in radiobiology focus on the development of radio-protectors. As such radiobiology comprises a wide range of research using biochemical and cellular systems, animals models and even patient derived material to improve cancer radiation treatment.
Ionizing radiation is used to treat persons and pets with cancer. This is called Radiotherapy. Radiation is very effective in killing cancer cells. By accurately focusing the radiation beams on the tumor the exposure of the surrounding normal tissue is minimized. However, some healthy tissue in close proximity of the tumor is unavoidably exposed to radiation to some degree and this can cause some damage. These effects of radiation on normal tissues are studied to avoid serious consequences.
Background radiation in the Netherlands
Live on earth is constantly exposed to radiation. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun and high energy cosmic radiation are important contributions but also ionizing radiation from natural sources from the earth contributes to the radiation burden of people. The total radiation exposure of ionizing radiation to the average person is very low and amounts a few milli-Sievert (mSv) per year. Sievert is the international unit used to describe the biological effects of ionizing radiation in organism including humans, taking into account the type of radiation involved. In the Netherlands the amount of ionizing radiation from the environment is about 2.5 mSv. This is very low compared to the daily fraction of radiation dose of 2 Sv (2 Gy of X-ray) which are commonly administrated to cancer patients.