Radiotherapy is well tolerated by most patients, but still patient may experience radiation-induced side effects. These side-effects can limit the dose that can be delivered to the tumor and/or reduce the quality of life of the patient.

The severity and frequency of normal tissue side effects can be reduced by modern, more precise therapies, such as particle therapy which can be used to reduce the radiation dose to normal tissue reducing side effects, or dose escalation improving tumor control. To optimize radiotherapy/protontherapy further knowledge about the physiological mechanism of interaction within and between irradiated tissues is needed. Next to that the lab is interested in the response of stem cells to radiation and subsequent regeneration of damaged tissues. We developed in vivo and in vitro organoid models derived from stem/progenitor cells of mice, rat and human brain, salivary gland, thyroid gland, and esophagus. Recently we developed a protocol for adult stem cell therapy for radiation-induced hyposalivation and consequential xerostomia, which is now being translated to the clinic. Currently, the lab is investigating how radiation-induced environmental changes influence the regenerative response of tissues.

  • Our main goal is to understand the molecular mechanism related to stem cell functioning after irradiation.
  • We aim to unravel the processes that inhibit stem cell functioning after irradiation using in vivo and in vitro organoid models.
  • We dissect changes in gene expression of cells in the tissue stem cell niche post-irradiation to study the interaction between stem cells and their surrounding cells to find tools to optimize regeneration.
  • With this knowledge we aim to understand how to optimize stem cell therapies to ameliorate radiation-induced normal tissue side effects

Understanding radiation-induced side effects of cancer treatment

The ability to reduce normal tissue side effect of radiotherapy will allow increase the chance of cancer cure and improve the quality of life of patients. Understanding how radiation-induced normal tissue damage can be reduced is crucial to optimize radiotherapy for an improved cure of cancer.
Understanding how stem cells respond to irradiation and radiation-induce changes of their surrounding environment is of huge importance to allow optimal regeneration of tissue after radiotherapy:

  • Fundamental radiobiology and stem cell biology
  • Molecular radiation-induced causes and pathology of tissues and (stem)cells
  • Therapeutic targets and strategies to optimize normal tissue response
  • Biomarkers and assays to monitor and predict patient response to irradiation
  • Technological innovations in radiation biology and oncology.

Research interests

  • We are testing our recently developed protocol of salivary gland stem cell therapy of the patient’s own stem cells obtained before radiotherapy and injected afterwards. This to reduce the chance to develop radiation-induced xerostomia due to lack of salivary gland function (funded by ZonMw)

  • Here we investigate how we can optimise and further develop a stem cells therapy to regenerate radiation damaged salivary gland using drugs that modify the microenvironment of stem cells, the patient’s adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells and pluripotent stem cells.

  • Several drugs known to reduce pulmonary hypertension are tested in preclinical models to test their efficacy in reducing radiation-induced pulmonary hypertension and consequential cardiopulmonary side effect of thoracic cancer treatment. (Funded by KWF kankerbestrijding)

  • This project aims to understand the mechanisms of proton particle therapy induced cancer and normal tissue response. (Funded by KWF kankerbestrijding)

  • Here we aim to develop a patient derived thyroid organoid-based transplantation protocol to generate a novel thyroid gland for patients that were the thyroid gland was removed during thyroid cancer therapy. (Funded by KWF kankerbestrijding)

  • Here we investigate how patient derived esophageal cancer organoids may predict the cancer treatment response to prevent over- or undertreatment.


R. Coppes
Rob Coppes Group leader of Effects of radiation on normal tissues, Professor of Radiotherapy and Radiation Biology of Normal Tissue Effects
Greetje Noppert Secretary - Section Molecular Cellbiology

University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)
Department of Biomedical Sciences of Cells and Systems
Rob Coppes - Effects of radiation on normal tissues
Internal Zip code FB31
Antonius Deusinglaan 1
9700 AD Groningen
The Netherlands

Visiting Address
University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)
Department of Biomedical Sciences of Cells and Systems
University Medical Center Groningen
Antonius Deusinglaan 1
Building 3215, 5th floor, room 565
9713 AV Groningen
The Netherlands