MD Anderson Cancer Center - UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Shrestha receives St. Jude CCSS award

November 29, 2018
Tracey Barnett

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The Graduate School would like to recognize first-year Ph.D. student Suman Shrestha for receiving the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) Career Development Award from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This award creates an opportunity for early career investigators and trainees with an interest and aptitude in childhood cancer survivorship research to develop and complete an initial research study. The award will also provide Shrestha travel funding be used to attend a national/international meeting to present the findings of his project and/or travel to a CCSS resource center.

"I feel honored to have received this CCSS award," said Shrestha. "I recently joined MD Anderson UTHealth GSBS as a Ph.D. student for the quality and width of research opportunities available here. This award provides me an opportunity to learn from and collaborate with national and international leaders in the field which is essential for any researcher."

Shrestha’s research, titled Enhancing Heart Model of Current CCSS Age-Specific Computational Phantoms by Defining Cardiac Substructure and Dose Reconstructions, is collaborative effort with MD Anderson Late Effects Research Group, which has for over thirty years collaborated on numerous national and international cohort and case-control radiation epidemiology studies. This work includes detailed abstraction of thousands of historic radiation therapy records to determine individual patients' organ doses. These data along with patient outcomes are used to establish organ specific radiation dose response models for various late effects. The results of such studies are used to establish surveillance guidelines for cancer survivors and to establish dosimetric constraints for contemporary radiotherapy treatment planning.

In particular, the current study on cardiac outcomes is to establish a dose response relationship for individual substructures in the heart. This will be an improvement over existing models which only consider dose to the whole heart. The specific goal of Shrestha’s research project is to refine the standard heart model through increased resolution and substructure delineation (including the left and right ventricle, left and right atrium, cardiac valves, and coronary arteries); and to provide dose reconstructions for the new model and its substructures as well.

Over the past several decades, survival of childhood cancer patient following diagnosis has improved significantly due to advancement in radiation therapy; but these cancer survivors are more likely to develop radiation-induced late effects, such as cardiac toxicity, second cancers and fertility complications in future. With increasing survival, it has become essential to understand the mechanism behind these complications in order to reduce them and improve the quality of life for these cancer survivors.

Shrestha, a native of Nepal, is a student in Medical Physics Program and is working on this research in the lab of Rebecca Howell, Ph.D.

He obtained a Master’s degree in physics from Tribhuvan University in 2013 and a Master’s in medical physics from Louisiana State University in 2018.

“An award such as this, provides fuel and motivation for students and thus has made me more focused and excited about future prospects of the research” said Shrestha.

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