1990’s: Foundation for the Future

The Nineties were characterized by the continued growth in of radiation oncology, helped in part by advances in physics and also by research innovations with roots in the Comprehensive Cancer Center Act.

At the same time, another kind of growth was appearing in the department; growth from increasing patient loads, a larger faculty and support staff, and an increasing residency program. New capital equipment purchases escalated, bringing new technologies into operation, benefitting from several treatment planning system advancements. The department became a national program in Gamma Knife radiosurgery mid-decade and began treating with IMRT in 1999. Multidisciplinary cancer clinics became a staple of the department, highlighted by the Interdisciplinary Breast Clinic. As a result of this success, many other multidisciplinary clinics, including Head & Neck, Urology, and Neuro-oncology, became commonplace.

The Radiobiology program came into its own in the early part of the decade. The program was led by Dr. Buchsbaum, who was recruited as Division Director to develop an experimental radiation biology and immunotherapy program using unlabeled and radiolabeled antibodies that bind to antigens expressed on the surface of cancer cells. The Division grew to include four additional Ph.D. faculty, two postdoctoral fellows, and a group of talented technicians. The Division also played a central role in the evaluation of death receptor antibodies for cancer therapy, and carried out research on antibody drug conjugates for targeted cancer therapy and the use of adenoviral vectors to produce single chain antibodies against epidermal growth factor receptor as radiosensitizing agents. Additional studies with novel radiosensitizers continued.

Hand-in-Paw became a regular partner in care and could be seen in the unit on an almost daily basis. Their highly trained therapy dogs and caring volunteer-owners brought much joy to patients of all ages during their visits. The Hand-in-Paw organization’s relationship with our core facility continues today, and the therapy dogs and their owners still visit nearly every day. A change in leadership also occurred in 1998, as Dr. Salter retired and Dr. Bonner became the third Chair in our department’s history.