Honoring Dr. Dario Rodrigues

“Cancer is relentless, so we must be relentless too.”

Relentless:  oppressively constant; incessant. Cancer never relents as it spreads through the individual’s body, or the collective population. Dario Rodrigues knows this well. In fact, he’s relentless in his dogged pursuit of innovation in cancer treatment:  hyperthermia, which promises to be a valuable weapon in the arsenal of those fighting for individuals, families, the human species.

“I knew I wanted to be a scientist from an early age.”

Dr. Dario Rodrigues is an Assistant Professor of Thermal Oncology Physics at the University of Maryland. He is a leading thermal oncology physicist in the USA. Above all else, Dr. Rodrigues knew he wanted to be a scientist from a young age. In his graduate studies, it became clear he wanted to focus specifically on the cancer field due to both its prevalence, and because he had been personally impacted by the disease. After receiving his doctorate in Biomedical Engineering, he was a research scholar at Duke University and received a Postdoctoral Fellowship with Thomas Jefferson University, studying with Paul Stauffer, a pioneer in the field of thermobrachytherapy.

“Treating cancer patients is a very humbling experience.”

At first, Dr. Rodrigues worked as a researcher for a few years developing medical devices to treat cancer with thermal therapies. Soon, he realized he had to work closer to cancer patients to understand better how to improve these devices’ efficacy and safety. After treating patients with thermal therapy, he decided to continue this specialized training to become a thermal oncology physicist. In short, he’s on the cutting edge for this kind of treatment.

He’s spent years uncompromisingly pursuing the uses of hyperthermia as one of a few thermal oncology physicists. Hyperthermia uses focused heat generated by radio waves and a thermal therapy technique to serve as a potent enhancer of chemo- and radiotherapy.

Thermobrachytherapy combines hyperthermia to enhance the cancer treatment and brachytherapy, a form of radiation treatment in which the radioactive materials are sealed inside a seed, pellet, wire, or capsule, and are inserted into an implanted device for brief periods over several days. The radiation from these materials while briefly inside the body damages the DNA of nearby cancer cells. But more importantly, it’s the synergism of combining radiation and thermotherapy, or hyperthermia, that has been shown to increase the effectiveness of the treatments beyond what either of them accomplishes alone.

“Finding way to validate the concept has been challenging but rewarding at the same time.”

As an advisor to Project Hope, the commercialization of thermobrachytherapy, he’s clear on his intentions for success of the thermobrachytherapy balloon device. “We must move forward, finding compromises between the ideal and what’s possible,” he says. Pursuing innovative technologies leads to many “dead ends.” But as Dr. Rodrigues notes, “dead ends do not mean zero gains. There are lessons learned along the way that contribute to advancements in cancer research that significantly improve clinical outcomes.”

The Project Hope team, including our advisors like Dr. Rodrigues, knows that a relentlessness approach is necessary in this fight against cancer. To learn more about thermobrachytherapy and Project Hope, click here. Would you or someone you know want to contribute to Project Hope? Contribute here.

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