Dr. Elaine Ron, a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, was one of the leading experts in radiation epidemiology and on the etiology of thyroid cancer, as well as being a champion of women in science. Over the course of her career she authored more than 400 scientific peer-reviewed papers and mentored researchers from around the world. She leaves a legacy of a new generation of investigators inspired by her example.
"Elaine contributed enormously to our understanding of the cancer risks associated with radiation," reflected Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., Director of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG). "Her interests included studies of the atomic bomb survivors in Japan, residents of the former Soviet Union exposed to the radioactive compounds from the Chernobyl accident and the Mayak nuclear facility, and patients exposed to diagnostic and therapeutic radiation. In addition to addressing the biological mechanisms of disease, Dr. Ron was keenly focused on public health and policy implications of her research."
Her scientific achievements included the largest study of cancer risks among patients treated with radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism and the first international effort to pool epidemiologic data on thyroid cancer. She recently launched a major investigation into the potential adverse effects of CT screening among children and young adults.
Shelia Hoar Zahm, Sc.D., Deputy Director of DCEG, noted, "Elaine was passionate about fighting injustice. Whether it was promoting equity for women scientists at work, preventing cruelty to animals, or advancing human rights around the globe, she refused to accept the status quo."
Dr. Ron received an M.P.H. from the Yale University School of Public Health and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Medicine. She conducted postdoctoral research at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Dr. Ron joined the NCI as a Visiting Associate in 1986, spent a year at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, Japan in 1991, and was Chief of the Radiation Epidemiology Branch from 1997 to 2002. She received the NIH Director's Award, the DCEG Exemplary Service Award, and served as the first Women Scientists' Advisor for DCEG. Dr. Ron served on numerous expert radiation committees including Committee 1 of the International Commission of Radiological Protection, as a member of the Scientific Council of the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Public Health Committee of the American Thyroid Association. She was an associate editor of Radiation Research and was an adjunct professor at Columbia University.
Dr. Ron died of cancer on November 20, 2010, at her home in Bethesda, Maryland. She was 67. She is survived by her son, Ariel Ron, her greatest joy.
REB Studies Led by Dr. Ron
REB scientists will continue Dr. Ronís research in ionizing radiation and cancer, etiology of thyroid tumors and multiple primary cancers.
Ionizing Radiation and Cancer
REB is evaluating the risk of radiation-associated tumors in the medical, occupational, and environmental settings. In addition, REB is examining biologic mechanisms related to radiation carcinogenesis. REBís research focuses on quantifying tumorigenic risks associated with acute, protracted or fractionated external radiation (x or gamma) and internal (iodine 131, plutonium and strontium) radiation. REB is also assessing the frequency of chromosome translocations following both occupational and routine diagnostic x-ray examinations.
External radiation: Working with researchers from the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, REB is studying cancer incidence in the Life Span Study (LSS), a long-term cohort study of atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The study focuses on quantifying risks of benign and malignant tumors, on describing the dose-response relation and on better understanding the modifying effects of gender, age and time. In collaboration with investigators at the University of Newcastle REB is conducting a cohort study of over 200,000 persons who received CT scans before the age of 18 years. The study will follow cohort members through national registries in the U.K. to identify cancers for the period 1985 - 2008. Doses will be estimated from radiology department computerized listings of CT scans.
Internal radiation: Radioactive iodines are widely used in medicine and can pose a health threat when accidently released into the environment by nuclear power plants. In an attempt to clarify the impact of radioiodines in carcinogenesis, REB is studying several cohorts of patients exposed to diagnostic or therapeutic I-131. REB is evaluating the radiation-related risks of thyroid cancer and other thyroid diseases in a cohort of people less than 18 years old at the time of the Chernobyl accident and resident in contaminated regions in Ukraine and Belarus. Members of the cohort have been screened three or four times by ultrasound and palpation. In collaboration with investigators from the Russian Federation, REB is investigating the relationship between cancer mortality and protracted radiation exposure among nearly 26,000 workers at the Mayak nuclear facility in Ozyorsk, Russia, who were exposed to external and/or internal radiation, and about 30,000 persons living in villages near a river polluted by radioactive wastes from the facility. REB is assessing thyroid disease among persons potentially exposed to environmental I-131 from atmospheric emissions from the nuclear facility.
Etiology of Thyroid Tumors
Thyroid cancer incidence has been rising in many developed countries, yet the reasons for this rapid increase are unknown. REB is performing a detailed comparative tumor analysis of molecular alterations and histopathology of papillary carcinomas currently treated and of tumors removed surgically more than 30 years ago. This approach may provide important clues to the reasons for the increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer. Radiation is the only well-defined cause of thyroid cancer. To elucidate other etiologic factors, REB has initiated a thyroid cancer working group in DCEG. REB is currently are studying BMI and physical activity, diet, various medical conditions and reproductive factors in two large DCEG cohorts. To further our understanding of radiation as a thyroid cancer risk factor, REB is leading an international pooled analysis of 13 studies.
Multiple Primary Cancers
With more early diagnosis and improved treatment, cancer patients are surviving longer and thus become at risk for developing a second primary cancer. Studying multiple primaries provides an opportunity to explore etiologic relationships, as well as treatment effects. Using data from the NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program, REB is studying several individual first and second cancer sites, e.g. thyroid, salivary, male and female breast as well as different types of radiation treatment for breast and other cancers.
1. Ron E, Modan B. Benign and malignant thyroid neoplasms after childhood irradiation for tinea capitis. J Natl Cancer Inst 1980;65:7-11
2. Ron E, Modan B, Floro S, Harkedar I, Gurewitz R. Mental function following scalp irradiation during childhood. Am J Epidemiol 1982;116:149-60.
3. Ron E, Lunenfeld F, Menczer J, Blumstein T, Katz L, Oelsner G, Serr D. Cancer incidence in a cohort of infertile women. Am J Epidemiol 1987;125:780-90.
4. Ron E, Kleinerman R, Boice JD Jr, LiVolsi VA, Flannery JT, Fraumeni JF Jr. A population-based case-control study of thyroid cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1987;79:1-12.
5. Ron E, Modan B, Boice JD Jr. Mortality after radiotherapy for ringworm of the scalp. Am J Epidemiol 1988;127:713-25.
6. Ron E, Modan B, Boice JD Jr, Alfandary E, Stovall M, Chetrit A, Katz L. Tumors of the brain and nervous system after radiotherapy in childhood. N Engl J Med 1988;319:1033-9.
7. Ron E, Modan B, Preston D, Alfandary E, Stovall M, Boice JD Jr. Radiation-induced skin carcinomas of the head and neck. Radiat Res 1991;125:318-25
8. Ron E, Lubin J, Schneider AB. Thyroid cancer incidence. Nature 1992;360:113.
9. Schneider AB, Ron E, Lubin J, Stovall M, Gierlowski TC. Dose-response relationships for radiation-induced thyroid cancer and thyroid nodules: evidence for the prolonged effects of radiation on the thyroid. J Clin Enodcrinol Metab 1993;77:362-9.
10. Ron E, Preston DL, Mabuchi K, Thompson DE, Soda M. Cancer incidence in atomic bomb survivors.† Part IV: Comparison of cancer incidence and mortality. Radiat Res 1994;137:S98-S112.
11. Ron E, Boice JD Jr, Hamburger S, Stovall M. Mortality following radiation treatment for infertility of hormonal origin †and amenorrhea. Int J Epidemiol 1994;23:1165-73
12. Ron E, Lubin JH, Shore RE, Mabuchi K, Modan B, Pottern LM, Schneider AB, Tucker MA, Boice JD Jr. Thyroid cancer after exposure to external radiation: a pooled analysis of seven studies. Radiat Res 1995;141:259-77.
13. Ron E, Doody MM, Becker D, Brill AB, Curtis RE, Goldman MB, Harris B, Hoffman DA, Maxon H, McConahey W, Preston-Martin S, Warshauer E, Wong FL, Boice JD Jr.† Cancer mortality following treatment for adult hyperthyroidism. JAMA 1998;280:347-55.
14. Ron E, Preston DL, Kishikawa M, Kobue T, Iseki M, Tokuoka S, Tokunaga M, Mabuchi, K. Skin tumor risk among atomic bomb survivors in Japan. Cancer Causes Control 1998;9:393-401.
15. Gilbert ES, Tarone R, Bouville A, Ron E. Thyroid cancer rates and 131I doses from Nevada atmospheric nuclear bomb tests. J Natl Cancer Inst 1998;90:1654-60.
16. Struewing JP, Coriaty ZM, Ron E,† Livoff A, Konichezky M, Cohen P, Resnick MB, Lifzchiz-Mercerl B, Lew S, Iscovich J. Founder BRCA1/2 mutations among male patients with breast cancer from Israel. Am J Hum Genet 1999;65:1800-2.
17. Franceschi S, Preston-Martin S, Dal Maso L, Negri E, La Vecchia C, Mack WJ, McTiernan A, Kolonel L, Mark SD, Mabuchi K, Jin F, Wingren G, Galanti MR, Hallquist A, Glattre E, Lund E, Levi F, Linos D, Ron E. A pooled analysis of case-control studies of thyroid cancer. IV. Benign thyroid diseases. Cancer Causes Control 1999;10:583-95.
18. Preston DL, Ron E, Yonehara S, Kobuke T, Fujii H, Kishikawa M, Tokunaga M, Tokuoka S, Mabuchi K. Tumors of the nervous system and pituitary gland associated with atomic bomb radiation exposure. J Natl Cancer Inst 2002;94:1555-63.
19. Shilnikova NS, Preston DL, Ron E, Gilbert ES, Vassilenko EK, Romanov SA, Kuznetsova S, Sokolnikov ME, Okatenko PV, Kreslov VV, Koshurnikova NA. Cancer mortality risk among workers at the Mayak nuclear complex. Radiat Res 2003;159:787-98.
20. Ron E. Cancer risks from medical radiation.† Health Phys 2003;85:47-59.
21. Yoshinaga S, Mabuchi K, Sigurdson AJ, Doody MM, Ron E. Cancer risks among radiologists and radiologic technologists: review of epidemiologic studies. Radiology 2004;233:313-21.
22. Krestinina LY, Preston DL, Ostroumova EV, Degteva MO, Ron E, Vyushkova OV, Startsev NV, Kossenko MM, Akleyev AV. Protracted radiation exposure and cancer mortality in the Techa River Cohort. Radiat Res 2005;164:602-11.
23. Chodick G, Ronckers C, Ron E, Shalev V. The utilization of pediatric computed tomography in a large Israeli health maintenance organization. Pediatr Radiol 2006;36:485-90.
24. Tronko MD, Howe GR, Bogdanova TI, Bouville AC, Epstein OV, Brill AB, Likhtarev IA, Fink DJ, Markov VV, Greenebaum E, Olijnyk VA, Masnyk IJ, Shpak VM, McConnell RJ, Tereshchenko VP, Robbins J, Zvinchuk OV, Zablotska LB, Hatch M, Luckyanov NK, Ron E, Thomas TL, Voilleque PG, Beebe GW. A cohort study of thyroid cancer and other thyroid diseases after the Chornobyl accident: thyroid cancer in Ukraine detected during first screening. J Natl Cancer Inst 2006;98:897-903.
25. Preston DL, Ron E, Tokuoka S, Funamoto S, Nishi N, Soda M, Mabuchi K, Kodama K. Solid cancer incidence in atomic bomb survivors: 1958-1998. Radiat Res 2007;168:1-64.
26. Romanenko AY, Finch SC, Hatch M, Lubin JH, Bebeshko VG, Bazyka DA, Gudzenko N, Dyagil IS, Reiss RF, Bouville A, Chumak VV, Trotsiuk NK, Babkina NG, Belyayev Y, Masnyk I, Ron E, Howe GR, Zablotska LB. The Ukrainian-American study of leukemia and related disorders among Chornobyl cleanup workers from Ukraine: III. Radiation risks. Radiat Res 2008;170:711-20.
27. Chodick G, Kim KP, Shwartz M, Horev G, Shalev V, Ron E. Radiation risks from pediatric computed tomography scanning. Pediatr Endocrinol Rev 2009;7:109-16.
28. Enewold L, Zhu K, Ron E, Marrogi AJ, Stojadinovic A, Peoples GE, Devesa SS. Rising thyroid cancer incidence in the United States by demographic and tumor characteristics, 1980-2005. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009;18:784-91
29. Hayashi Y, Lagarde F, Tsuda N, Funamoto S, Preston DL, Koyama K, Mabuchi K, Ron E, Kodama K, Tokuoka S. Papillary microcarcinoma of the thyroid among atomic bomb survivors. Cancer 2010;116:1646-55.
30. Zablotska LB, Ron E, Rozhko AV, Brenner AV, Polyanskaya ON, Lubin J, Romanov GN, McConnell R J, O'Kane P, Evseenko VV, Drozdovitch V, Bouville A, Hatch M, Masyakin VB. Thyroid cancer risk in Belarus among children and adolescents exposed to radioiodine after the Chornobyl accident. Br J of Cancer 2010, 1-7.[-Top-]