The SARRP bridges the gap between pre-clinical studies and clinical trials to increase our understanding of how radiation alters DNA, cells and tissues, and how best it can be utilised for the treatment of cancer.


In Australia, almost 50% of patients receive radiation therapy at some time during their cancer experience. While it is painless and only takes a few minutes, there are still questions around what dose of radiation to give and for how long. The SARRP allows researchers to study the effect of radiation on tumours, and healthy cells and tissues, in order to develop new treatment combinations for cancer patients. For example, the addition of radiosensitiser and radioprotective agents, as well as novel chemotherapeutic and immunotherapeutic drugs. Our multi-disciplinary team and patient-centric focus ensures that there is bi-lateral communication of highly clinically relevant questions and findings between the laboratory and clinic.

The SARRP Xstrahl research platform provides image-guided orthovoltage (150-300kV) X-ray radiation as for their medical instruments used in Radiation Oncology Departments around the world. An anatomical target can be identified by cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT), bioluminescence, and bioluminescent tomography (BIOL; MuriGlo®; akin to ‘tumour paint’). This enables a target to be accurately located in 3-D down to the submillimetre, and a 0.5 mm beam of radiation confidently delivered. When used in conjunction with the MuriPlan® treatment/dose planning system, the number, strength (dose) and direction of radiation beams can be designed to avoid critical organs and minimise radiation exposure to healthy tissues. This enables researchers to develop and validate new regimens for cancer patients which utilise radiation therapy.

Our aim is to extend and improve the quality of life for patients with cancer by increasing the efficacy of treatment – to reduce stress, time and cost for patients and their families.

For further information or potential collaborations please contact Dr Kelly McKelvey or Dr Heather Donaghy.

Radiation Delivery

The X-ray radiation technology of the SARRP is similar to that of the Medical Xstrahl 300 X-ray System for treatment of skin cancer in the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre. Both systems precisely deliver kV X-ray radiation to the target tumour from outside the body (known as External Beam Therapy).


SARRP radiation therapy is image-guided using CT or bioluminescence 3-D reconstruction to pin point a tumour or anatomical structure for irradiation. The X-ray beam can be delivered as static, dynamic 2-D arc therapy, or dynamic 3-D conformal therapy using dose planning software to determine a delivery path to avoid critical organs and calculate the absorbed dose of the target tumour, while minimising radiation exposure to healthy tissues. These capabilities mimic what is available in the clinic.

The SARRP enables our Sydney Vital Researchers to take a “bedside to bech to bedside” approach to benefit cancer patients and their families by answering questions directly from the clinic regarding radiation dosing, delivery and regimens for patients, and to understand the biology that underpins it.

Benefits to Patients

Radiation therapy (RT) is in itself painless. It is used for curative, neoadjuvant (before), adjuvant (after), or palliative treatment of cancer patients.


A goal of Sydney Vital is to improve the effectiveness of RT to eliminate cancer cells in the body. The SARRP enables researchers to replicate patient radiation regimens, and test existing and novel RT regimens and combinations with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiosensitising and radioprotective agents.

Our patient-centric focus drives the collaborations of our cancer researchers from the laboratory and clinic to develop research projects utilising the SARRP that will have translatable clinical outcomes to improve patient quality of life.

Important clinical and scientific questions we are investigating include:

  • Radiobiology – tissue toxicity, immune response, tumour microenvironment, biomarkers
  • Cancer radiosensitivity and radiocurability
  • Radiotherapy – image registration, deformation, contouring, fusion, and dose accumulation
  • Radiation dose regimens – single and fractionated dose regimens, in combination with existing or novel agents
  • Minimising radiation induced adverse events and immune-mediated adverse events
  • Radiation-induced changes to drug metabolism

The SARRP is an important piece of our research pipeline to ensure that the the right patient gets the right treatment at the right time.


Kelly McKelvey PhD
Matt Callander Beanie for Brain Cancer HMRI Fellow

Email: [email protected]








Dr Heather Donaghy
PACT Project Officer 

Email: [email protected]