Clinical Cooperation Unit Radiation Oncology

Prof. Dr. Dr. Jürgen Debus(in ch.)

Computer-aided imaging techniques allow for optimal planning of radiation therapy

Our Unit treats cancer patients with new innovative technologies and explores new strategies to adapt radiotherapy to the patients’ individual situation. This involves approaches from many fields, such as new imaging techniques, medical physics, computer sciences, biology and radiochemistry. In order to push the boundaries of modern radiation oncology we cooperate with many groups within the DKFZ, the University Hospital and other national and international experts. Within the Heidelberg Institute of Radiation Oncology (HIRO) our goal is to provide for every patient the best available therapy option every day. Since 1997 the unit permanently investigates and optimizes ion therapy.

One current research focus is the treatment of moving tumors in the lung and upper abdomen. Breathing motion adjusted therapy is applied in so-called gated therapy; here, radiation is only delivered in the optimal breathing phase. To improve imaging of tumor motion necessary for gated or tracked therapy, we evaluate different markers placed invasively around the tumor. This includes gold markers for X-ray based fluoroscopy imaging and electromagnetic markers for online tumor motion tracking. Within the DKTK, molecular stratification of patients is investigated in a multicentric trial with the aim to identify markers to predict outcome after radiotherapy. We also perform analyses of the use of dual energy CT (DECT) with the aim of metal artefact correction, extraction of a virtual native CT and direct measurement of electron density. Evaluation of functional imaging in involving PET and MRI in the planning of radiotherapy is also on our agenda. This includes metabolic and hypoxic tracers and their potential to individualize radiation treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. Strong emphasis is put on the integration of MR imaging into image guided radiotherapy (IGRT). Using MR imaging and shuttle-based patient transport, we investigate the possibility to optimize adaptive radiotherapy by performing daily inter-fractional image guidance.

We will continue the individualization of radiotherapy by integrating biomolecular information into therapy planning, as well as into the therapy process. Several clinical trials, e.g. involving the novel biomarker PSMA, assessing tumor hypoxia status or investigating effects of radiotherapy on the immune system are on our agenda. Towards the development of MR guided Radiotherapy, we received funding from the DFG for a combined treatment system that will be installed in 2016/17.


Prof. Dr. Dr. Jürgen Debus (in ch.)
Radiation Oncology (E050)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg

Patient contact

Selected Publications

  • (68)Ga-PSMA-11 PET/CT: a new technique with high potential for the radiotherapeutic management of prostate cancer patients. Sterzing F, Kratochwil C, Fiedler H, Katayama S, Habl G, Kopka K, Afshar-Oromieh A, Debus J, Haberkorn U, Giesel FL. Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2016 Jan;43(1):34-4
  • CD8+ tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes in relation to HPV status and clinical outcome in patients with head and neck cancer after postoperative chemoradiotherapy: A multicentre study of the German cancer consortium radiation oncology group (DKTK-ROG).Balermpas P, Rödel F, Rödel C, Krause M, Linge A, Lohaus F, Baumann M, Tinhofer I, Budach V, Gkika E, Stuschke M, Avlar M, Grosu AL, Abdollahi A, Debus J, Bayer C, Stangl S, Belka C, Pigorsch S, Multhoff G, Combs SE, Mönnich D, Zips D, Fokas E. Int J Cancer. 2016 Jan 1;138(1):171-81
  • In vivo measurement of dose distribution in patients' lymphocytes: helical tomotherapy versus step-and-shoot IMRT in prostate cancer. Zwicker F, Swartman B, Roeder F, Sterzing F, Hauswald H, Thieke C, Weber KJ, Huber PE, Schubert K, Debus J, Herfarth K. J Radiat Res. 2015 Mar;56(2):239-47
  • MR?Guidance – eine klinische Studie zur Evaluation einer shuttlebasierten, MRT?geführten Radiotherapie Bostel T, Nicolay N.H, Grossmann G, Mohr A, Delorme S, Echner G, Häring P, Pfaffenberger A, Debus J, Sterzing F, Strahlenther Onkol 190, Issue 1 Supplement, (2014) S. 1-164
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