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Colby Parker, a third-year medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently participated in research being published in the Journal of Radiation Oncology and attended a national conference in Hawaii to present the findings.
Parker’s research examines different methods of radiation dosage for lung cancer patients using the CyberKnife system at the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute. The lung presents a unique challenge in terms of radiation doses due to the amount of air involved. The Monte Carlo method for calculating lung doses has been thought to result in more accurate dose estimates. However, it takes much longer to perform and had not been shown to improve clinical outcomes over the older methods.
To further understand the results, under the direction of Dr. Roger Ove and Dr. Suzanne Russo, Parker compared the two methods on 47 cases treated over a two-year period and found that the difference was significant enough to recommend switching to the new method for all patients moving forward.
According to Parker, attending the national conference in Hawaii “couldn’t have gone better.” Having never been to a conference, he admits he was unsure at first. However, his poster won an award for being in the top 10 percent of the poster presentations.
The inspiration for the project came from Parker’s passion for physics. He explained that radiation oncology is “arguably the most physics-based field in medicine.” During medical school, exposure to radiation oncology is limited. By working on a research project in the field, Parker found a way to learn more about radiation oncology.
Parker said he enjoys medical research because he is able to accomplish work that can directly affect patients in a positive way. He feels that “research is the foundation of modern evidence-based medicine.” Without it, he believes the advancement and improvement of patient outcome would not be possible.
As for future research, Parker is currently looking at each of the 47 cases examined previously to get a better understanding of how lung cancers respond to radiation therapy in order to explore potential improved treatment strategies.
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