When discussing, or writing, about the field of radiation oncology, it is impossible to do so without mentioning John (Jack) F. Fowler, D.Sc., Ph.D., FASTRO. Dr. Fowler is a very influential and multi-award winning physicist that has made, and continues to make, lasting contributions to the fields of radiation biology and oncology. He has dedicated his life to his work and has helped developed how physicians around the world practice radiation therapy today. Dr. Fowler has published approximately 500 papers and is best known for his work in radiation fractionation, normal tissue injury and repair, and applying the concept of alpha/beta to better understand and rationally predict the impact of fractionation on tumor and normal tissues.
Dr. Jack Fowler obtained his B.Sc. in 1944, M.Sc. in 1946, a Ph.D. in 1955 (Radiation Physics), and his D.Sc. in 1974 (Radiation Biology) from the University of London. He spent several years in hospital physics, before joining the MRC Radiotherapeutic Research Unit at Hammersmith Hospital in 1959. In 1962, he became Reader in Physics in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School, and a year later returned to Hammersmith as Professor of Medical Physics. In 1970, he was appointed Director of the British Empire Cancer Campaign’s Research Unit in Radiobiology at Mount Vernon Hospital, which he greatly expanded and renamed the Gray Laboratory. Under his leadership the “Gray Lab” flourished and became one of the foremost labs in the world in the study of radiation biology.
Dr. Fowler served as director of the lab from 1969 – 1988. During this 19 year period, the research conducted by Dr. Fowler, and a cast of extremely talented colleagues, greatly influenced the fields of radiation biology, physics, and chemistry and had a major impact on radiation oncology. He taught a whole generation of physicists and physicians, including Philadelphia CyberKnife’s very own Dr. John Lamond.
John Lamond M.D., is a Radiation Oncologist and the Medical Director at Philadelphia CyberKnife. Dr. Lamond was awarded a full merit scholarship from Hahnemann Medical School, where he graduated with honors in 1991. He trained in the emerging field of stereotactic radiosurgery during his radiation oncology residency at the University of Wisconsin. It was during his residency that Dr. Lamond got to meet Dr. Fowler.
Dr. Lamond first met Dr. Fowler in 1992. At the time, Dr. Fowler had already retired as the director of the Gray lab in England and moved to Wisconsin to continue his research on fast growing cancers, such as larynx and tonsillar cancers. At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Fowler spent time teaching Dr. Lamond and the other radiation oncology residents the details of the linear quadratic formula, which is used to estimate the radiation effects to various normal tissues and tumors.
“He was generous with his time and made sure all of us had a thorough knowledge,” remembered Dr. Lamond. “I recall him being presented the top award in radiation oncology at our ASTRO meeting in Miami in 1995. Instead of celebrating with the other luminaries, he elected to go out with us residents that night and we talked about our various research projects over a few beers. That was, and continues to be Jack. He doesn’t care if you are a lower level resident or someone more famous, he treated each the same.”
Dr. Lamond left the University of Wisconsin in 1996 and did not work with Dr. Fowler again until 2007, at Philadelphia Cyberknife. By that time, Dr. Fowler had become very interested in relatively slower growing tumors, such as prostate cancer. He suggested that the cancer may be better treated with a smaller number of high dose radiation treatments. He visited Philadelphia CyberKnife on three separate occasions, helping to spur the clinical team on in their research efforts.
In addition to their time together at the University of Wisconsin and Philadelphia CyberKnife, Dr. Lamond and Dr. Jun Yang, Chief Medical Physicist at Philadelphia CyberKnife, collaborated with Dr. Fowler and published two papers on the radiobiology of radiosurgery. Dr. Lamond has a lot to thank Dr. Jack Fowler for and was pleased to recently have the opportunity to see him in London at a radiation biology meeting that was in his honor.
Dr. Fowler has received numerous honors over his career, including a remarkable “triple” as recipient of the Gold Medals of ESTRO (1983), ASTRO (1995), and the Failla Award Lecture of the Radiation Research Society (2002), the highest honor bestowed on an individual by these three societies.
Photo caption: Jun Yang PhD., DABR, Chief Medical Physicist at Philadelphia CyberKnife, Dr. Jack Fowler, D.Sc., Ph.D., FASTRO, and Dr. John Lamond, M.D., Medical Director at Philadelphia CyberKnife