Researcher’s Profile

David J. Brenner, PhD

Director, Center for Radiological Research (CRR)
Director, Radiological Research Accelerator Facility (RARAF)
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I direct the Center for Radiological Research - now more than 100 years old - at Columbia University Medical Center. I started my career in theoretical physics -- applying quantum mechanics to radiation therapy. While I've forgotten most of what I ever knew about quantum mechanics, I've kept my love for applying hard-core maths and physics concepts to solve biological problems.

We want to understand the effects on people of both high doses and low doses of radiation:

At high radiation doses, radiation therapy is one of main tools to we have to cure cancer, and we are constantly looking for ways to make radiotherapy more effective and with less side effects. We've worked a lot on improving the radiation treatments for cervical cancer and for prostate cancer, and right now we are really excited about the use of charged particle radiation therapy in the fight against pancreatic cancer. The clinical results for carbon-ion therapy from Japan look really promising - but we don't know how it works - and so we are determined to take advantage of all the facilities at our Radiological Research Accelerator Facility (RARAF) to find out the mechanisms of how carbon-ion therapy may be curing this deadly disease.

At low radiation doses, radiation is important in many different circumstances, ranging all the way from medical CT scans, to radiological terrorism, to airport scanners, to the future of nuclear power, and even to space travel. We work on all of these, trying to understand the radiation risks, so we can maximize the benefits versus the risk in each case.

Most of our work is with ionizing radiation - x rays, neutrons, alpha particles, carbon ions, but there are many other different types of radiation. Over the past six years, we have been working on a very exciting new approach to killing drug-resistant bacteria - superbugs- , as well as airborne viruses such as influenza, using a unique type of ultra-violet light. We have always known that ultraviolet light can efficiently kill all microbes, but conventional germicidal ultraviolet light is hazardous to our health, causing skin cancer and cataracts. We have identified a particular wavelength of UV light that has the best of both worlds - it's safe and it kills microbes - including superbugs.

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Radiation is very much a two-edged sword -- used in the right way it has revolutionized modern medicine -- such as through CT scans and as a cure for many cancers. But radiation used in the wrong way can be harmful. To maximize the benefits of the many different applications of radiation, we need to understand exactly how they affect us -- from our DNA to the whole person.

Publications: 

Meulepas JM, Hauptmann M, Lubin JH, Shuryak I, Brenner DJ. Is there unmeasured indication bias in radiation-related cancer risk estimates from studies of computed tomography? Radiat Res. Epub: Dec 2017 [Abstract]

Buonanno M, Ponnaiya B, Welch D, Stanislauskas M, Randers-Pehrson G, Smilenov L, Lowy FD, Owens DM, Brenner DJ. Germicidal efficacy and mammalian skin safety of 222-nm UV light.Radiat Res. 2017;187:483-491[PDF]

Welch D, Spotnitz HM, Brenner DJ. Measurement of UV emission from a diffusing optical fiber using radiochromic film. Photochem Photobiol. 2017;93:1509-1512[PDF]

Laiakis EC, Wang YW, Young EF, Harken AD, Xu Y, Smilenov L, Garty GY, Brenner DJ, Fornace AJ Jr. Metabolic dysregulation after neutron exposures expected from an Improvised Nuclear Device. Radiat Res. 2017;188:21-34[PDF]

Miller AC, Gilstad J, Brenner DJ. Military global health engagement and low-dose ionizing radiation. Mil Med. 2017;182:1677-1679[PDF]

Nagel ZD, En gelward BP, Brenner DJ, Begley TJ, Sobol RW, Bielas JH, Stambrook PJ, Wei Q, Hu JJ, Terry MB, Dilworth C, McAllister KA, Reinlib L, Worth L, Shaughnessy DT. Towards precision prevention: Technologies for identifying healthy individuals with high risk of disease. Mutat Res.2017;800-802:14-28[PDF]

Welch D, Randers-Pehrson G, Spotnitz HM, Brenner DJ. Unlaminated Gafchromic EBT3 film for ultraviolet radiation monitoring. Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2017;176:341-346[PDF]

Repin M, Pampou S, Karan C, Brenner DJ, Garty G. RABiT-II: Implementation of a high-throughput micronucleus biodosimetry assay on commercial biotech robotic systems. Radiat Res. 2017;187:492-498[PDF]

Garty G, Xu Y, Elliston C, Marino SA, Randers-Pehrson G, Brenner DJ. Mice and the A-Bomb: Irradiation Systems for Realistic Exposure Scenarios. Radiat Res. 2017;187:465-475[PDF]

Shuryak I, Fornace AJ Jr, Datta K, Suman S, Kumar S, Sachs RK, Brenner DJ. Scaling human cancer risks from low LET to high LET when dose-effect relationships are complex. Radiat Res.2017;187:476-482[PDF]

Welch D, Turner L, Speiser M, Randers-Pehrson G, Brenner DJ. Scattered dose calculations and measurements in a life-like mouse phantom. Radiat Res. 2017[PDF]

Kramer R, Cassola VF, Andrade ME, de Araújo MW, Brenner DJ, Khoury HJ. Mathematical modelling of scanner-specific bowtie filters for Monte Carlo CT dosimetry. Phys Med Biol.2017;62:781-809[PDF]

Holmes JA, Chera BS, Brenner DJ, Shuryak I, Wilson AK, Lehman-Davis M, Fried DV, Somasundaram V, Lian J, Cullip T, Marks LB. Estimating the excess lifetime risk of radiation induced secondary malignancy (SMN) in pediatric patients treated with craniospinal irradiation (CSI): Conventional radiation therapy versus helical intensity modulated radiation therapy. Pract Radiat Oncol. 2017;7:35-41[PDF]

Radivoyevitch T, Sachs RK, Gale RP, Molenaar RJ, Brenner DJ, Hill BT, Kalaycio ME, Carraway HE, Mukherjee S, Sekeres MA, Maciejewski JP Defining AML and MDS second cancer risk dynamics after diagnoses of first cancers treated or not with radiation. Leukemia. 2016;30:285-94[PDF]

Bertucci A, Smilenov LB, Turner HC, Amundson SA, Brenner DJ. In vitro RABiT measurement of dose rate effects on radiation induction of micronuclei in human peripheral blood lymphocytes.Radiat Environ Biophys. 2016;55:53-9[PDF]

Laiakis EC, Pannkuk EL, Diaz-Rubio ME, Wang YW, Mak TD, Simbulan-Rosenthal CM, Brenner DJ, Fornace AJ Jr. Implications of genotypic differences in the generation of a urinary metabolomics radiation signature. Mutat Res. 2016;788:41-9 [PDF]

Goudarzi M, Chauthe S, Strawn SJ, Weber WM, Brenner DJ, Fornace AJ. Quantitative metabolomic analysis of urinary citrulline and calcitroic acid in mice after exposure to various types of ionizing radiation. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(5)[PDF]

Laiakis EC, Strawn SJ, Brenner DJ, Fornace AJ Jr. Assessment of saliva as a potential biofluid for biodosimetry: A pilot metabolomics study in mice. Radiat Res. 2016;186:92-7 [PDF]

Garty G, Turner HC, Salerno A, Bertucci A, Zhang J, Chen Y, Dutta A, Sharma P, Bian D, Taveras M, Wang H, Bhatla A, Balajee A, Bigelow AW, Repin M, Lyulko OV, Simaan N, Yao YL, Brenner DJ. The decade of the RABiT (2005-15). Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2016;172:201-206 [PDF]

Goudarzi M, Mak TD, Jacobs JP, Moon BH, Strawn SJ, Braun J, Brenner DJ, Fornace AJ Jr, Li HH. An Integrated multi-omic approach to assess radiation injury on the host-microbiome axis.Radiat Res. 2016;18:219-34[PDF]

Bian D, Tsui JC, Repin M, Garty G, Turner H, Lawrence Yao Y, Brenner DJ. Liquid handling optimization in high-throughput biodosimetry tool. J Med Device. 2016 Dec;10(4) [PDF]

Durante M, Brenner DJ, Formenti S. Does heavy ion therapy work through the immune system?Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2016;96:934-6 [PDF]

Buonanno M, Stanislauskas M, Ponnaiya B, Bigelow AW, Randers-Pehrson G, Xu Y, Shuryak I, Smilenov L, Owens DM, Brenner DJ. 207-nm UV light-a promising tool for safe low-cost reduction of surgical site infections. II. In-vivo safety studies. PLoS One. 2016 Jun 8;11(6):e0138418 [PDF]

Goudarzi M, Chauthe S, Strawn SJ, Weber WM, Brenner DJ, Fornace AJ. Quantitative metabolomic analysis of urinary citrulline and calcitroic acid in mice after exposure to various types of ionizing radiation. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 May 20;17(5). pii: E782 [PDF]

Laiakis EC, Pannkuk EL, Diaz-Rubio ME, Wang YW, Mak TD, Simbulan-Rosenthal CM, Brenner DJ, Fornace AJ Jr. Implications of genotypic differences in the generation of a urinary metabolomics radiation signature. Mutat Res. 2016;788:41-9[PDF]

Bertucci A, Smilenov LB, Turner HC, Amundson SA, Brenner DJ. In vitro RABiT measurement of dose rate effects on radiation induction of micronuclei in human peripheral blood lymphocytes. Radiat Environ Biophys. 2016 Mar;55(1):53-9. doi: 10.1007/s00411-015-0628-z. Epub 2016 Jan 20. [PDF]

Helen C. Turner , Igor Shuryak, Waylon Weber, Melanie Doyle-Eisele, Dunstana Melo, Raymond Guilmette, Sally A. Amundson, David J. Brenner. ?-H2AX Kinetic Profile in Mouse Lymphocytes Exposed to the Internal Emitters Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. PLOS One. 2015 Nov 30.[PDF]

Xu Y, Randers-Pehrson G, Marino SA, Garty G, Harken A, Brenner DJ.Broad Energy Range Neutron Spectroscopy using a Liquid Scintillator and a Proportional Counter: Application to a Neutron Spectrum Similar to that from an Improvised Nuclear Device. Nucl Instrum Methods Phys Res A.2015 Sep 11;794:234-239.[PDF]

Goudarzi M, Weber WM, Chung J, Doyle-Eisele M, Melo DR, Mak TD, Strawn SJ, Brenner DJ, Guilmette R, Fornace AJ. Serum dyslipidemia is induced by internal exposure to strontium-90 in mice, lipidomic profiling using a data-independent LC/MS approach. J Proteome Res. 2015 Aug 11.[PDF]

Lue SW, Repin M, Mahnke R, Brenner DJ. Development of a High-Throughput and Miniaturized Cytokinesis-Block Micronucleus Assay for Use as a Biological Dosimetry Population Triage Tool. Radiat Res. 2015 Jul 31.[PDF]

Buonanno M, Randers-Person G, Smilenov LB, Kleiman NJ, Young E, Ponnayia B, Brenner DJ. A Mouse Ear Model for Bystander Studies Induced by Microbeam Irradiation. Radiat Res. 2015 Jul 24.[http://www.columbia.edu/~djb3/paper