UCL Cancer Institute


Translational Radiation Oncology Research Group

Group Leader: Professor Ricky Sharma 

The aim of the translational radiation oncology research programme is to improve the therapeutic index for patients with cancer by maximising the effectiveness of radiotherapy whilst minimising toxicities to normal tissues. The group has a well established track record in translating scientific discoveries in the laboratory to clinical trials in patients with cancer. 

Innovation in radiotherapy

The principal technologies being researched to achieve this goal are photons, the type of radiotherapy used routinely to treat patients with cancer, and a more recent innovation in radiotherapy, proton beam therapy (PBT).  The level of precision achievable with proton beams conforms to the tumour target, whilst sparing neighbouring healthy tissues and organs. We are studying both types of radiotherapy in cell lines, 3D tumour models of cancer and in tissue samples obtained from patients. These models allow us to study the microstructure of a cancer, with specific reference to DNA damage and repair, tumour heterogeneity, neoantigen expression and immune surveillance.  

Imaging research

UCL is at the forefront of novel imaging research with new forms of MRI such as MR spectroscopy, chemical exchange saturation transfer and quantification of the solid tumour microstructure. In order to define the biological target volume (BTV) for radiotherapy, window studies are being performed in patients with resectable tumours in which imaging is correlated with biopsy or resection specimens.  These studies will also be important in defining our ability in the future to adapt radiotherapy to the BTV during a course of radiotherapy treatment (adaptive radiotherapy). 

In the clinical treatment of patients with cancer, a particular challenge for both PBT and stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is organ motion.  In collaboration with the Physics Department and CMIC, new models for motion management using CT and MRI imaging are being developed and validated for clinical use to allow moving cancer targets in the lung, liver and kidney to be treated safely with high doses of radiotherapy.