Research Excellence at Carleton Recognized

Friday, October 30, 2015

Dr. Rowan Thomson will be able to delve deeper into these topics, thanks to funding from the Early Researcher Award (ERA) – where each recipient will receive $100,000 from the province towards a total project of $190,000.

The program, administered by the Province of Ontario, aims to help recently appointed Ontario researchers build their research teams of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research associates.

Thomson, an associate professor in medical physics and Canada Research Chair in Radiotherapy Physics, has been looking at the interaction between radiation and matter – and how radiation treatments for cancer patients could be improved.

She says she is thrilled to receive an ERA.

“I’m really excited and honoured to have been selected,” Thomson says. “I’m excited that it will fund more research.”

She says she got involved in the topic of cancer treatment after receiving her doctorate degree. She connected with Carleton’s Dr. David Rogers, Canada Research Chair in Medical Physics, who was working on similar research.

Thomson has been looking at the interaction between radiation and matter and how radiation treatments for cancer patients could be improved.  Dr. Rowan Thomson is Carleton University’s Canada Research Chair in Radiotherapy Physics, and Associate Professor in the Department of Physics. She works in the Carleton Laboratory for Radiotherapy Physics and with the Medical Physics Group.

rowan

Thomson’s ERA will fund research related to brachytherapy treatments – meaning up-close radiation treatments where radiation is placed inside a tumour.

Physicists calculate and measure the amount and type of radiation to give cancer patients, but Thomson says the process hasn’t been perfected – and the dose of radiation calculated could be off.

The ERA will fund some research related to brachytherapy treatments – meaning up-close radiation treatments where radiation is placed inside a tumour, which is often applied in cases of prostate, breast or lung cancer.

“We’ve developed fast software, that’s very accurate in simulating the passage of radiation in a patient model and calculating the energy deposited within our research group,” Thomson says, adding this software is starting to be used in some hospitals.

The funding will also help advance other aspects of her research – looking ahead to future treatments that could be used in cancer patients.

Her group is partnering with a Toronto group that is looking at putting gold nanoparticles in tumours.

If gold is placed in a tumour and radiated, it could cause more interactions to take place between the radiation and the tumour, helping to damage it. Understanding the effects of the gold nanoparticles will require investigation of energy deposition within cells, in particular DNA, which push the boundaries of current simulation techniques. Thomson is developing new approaches to tackle challenges in this emerging area.

She says she hopes her research makes a positive impact.

“I want to help people,” she says.