During radiation treatment for cancer, even healthy cells that are far away from the tumor and are not exposed to the radiation are still subject to the harmful effects of radiation. This is known as the radiation-induced bystander effect ("RIBE").
Professor Ding Xue discovered that the human protein "cathepsin B" is a critical factor in the signalling between irradiated and non-irradiated cells. This signalling is required for RIBE, and thus Professor Xue began to search for ways to target cathepsin B and prevent RIBE. His efforts have been fruitful and a series of preclinical drug candidates are under development, all with the goal of improving patient response to radiation therapy by eliminating or reducing the side effects caused by RIBE.
Cancer remains a serious global health problem. In the United States alone, there are about 15 million cases of cancer, approximately 60% of whom receive radiation therapy. Millions of people deal with the side effects of radiation therapy and new approaches are needed to limit or remove these side effects.