U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Radiation is a Complex Carcinogen
Published: May 17, 2011
Posted: August 04, 2011

How is cancer caused by ionizing radiation? A new study by DOE researchers challenges the notion that DNA damage is the sole action of radiation as a carcinogen. A small piece of tumor was transplanted into irradiated mice to determine if radiation exposure of the surrounding host tissue would affect the growth of the resulting tumor. The group identified two distinct carcinogenic mechanisms mediated by the surrounding host tissue. One mechanism affected tumor latency—tumors grew more quickly in irradiated vs. unirradiated mice. The second mechanism influenced the specific type of cancer produced—tumors in the irradiated mice were much more likely to be estrogen receptor negative. These data reinforce the concept that signals from surrounding irradiated cells can promote the process of carcinogenesis. Unlike initial DNA damage, radiation effects originating from the surrounding cell microenvironment develop in a non-linear fashion with respect to dose, underscoring the complexity of the biological effect. The research was led by Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff of New York University and has been published in Cancer Cell and highlighted in Nature.

References: Nguyen, D. H., et al. 2011. "Radiation Acts on the Microenvironment To Affect Breast Carcinogenesis by Distinct Mechanisms that Decrease Cancer Latency and Affect Tumor Type," Cancer Cell 19, 640–651. Anonymous. 2011. "Cancer: Radiation's Double Whammy," Nature 473, 423.

Contact: Noelle Metting, SC-23.2, (301) 903-8309
Topic Areas:

  • Legacy: Low Dose Radiation, Radiobiology

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)