Dr. Karl Butterworth

Dr. Karl Butterworth

Lecturer in Translational radiation Biology, Patrick G. Johnston Centre for Cancer Research, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.

Dr Butterworth is a Lecturer in Translational Radiation Biology at the Patrick G. Johnston Centre for Cancer Research, Queen’s University Belfast. His research interests focus on biological optimisation in radiotherapy through beam delivery modalities and rationally designed drug radiotherapy combinations.

Central to his programme is the application of mouse models with image guided radiotherapy aiming to interrogate normal tissue response closely linked preclinical imaging and functional tissue assessment. In 2019, he was recipient of the Michael Fry Award from the US Radiation Research Society for exceptional accomplishments in radiation research.


Title: Biologically optimised radiotherapy: How, where & with what?

Summary: Radiotherapy continues to play a critical role in the curative treatment of cancer, driven by complementary advances in technology and biological understanding of radiation effects at the cell, tissue and whole organism levels.

In recent years, technological developments have enabled the routine use of high precision radiotherapy, often resulting in the sequential delivery of complex, modulated radiation fields. This is a departure from the classical paradigm of radiobiological effects with most of our knowledge based on responses to uniform field exposures.

We are aiming to better understand the radiobiological consequences of spatial dose complexity in tumours and normal tissues using small animal image guided radiotherapy to more accurate replicate clinically relevant treatment protocols in mouse models.

Our studies have focussed on determining HOW different physical beam characteristics can impact response in causing radiation effects outside of the treatment field. Also, we have demonstrated the critical importance of WHERE dose is delivered within target structures and organs at risk. In particular, we have identified critical radiosensitive sub-volumes in the mouse heart which accurately replicate clinical observations in patients receiving thoracic radiotherapy.

Finally, our ongoing work seeks to exploit biological vulnerabilities in tumours by combining radiotherapy WITH drugs based on a priori knowledge of molecular targets such as components of the DNA damage response, or by repurposing approved agents. These studies exemplify how recent developments in preclinical radiotherapy technology are now enabling advanced studies in the laboratory, and may directly inform the development of new treatment paradigms exploiting optimised beam modalities and combination therapies.

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