ASTRO at 60: The Evolution of Radiation Oncology

astro at 60


In 1958, the year of ASTRO’s founding, Radiation Oncology branched off from Diagnostic Radiology to become a specialty in its own right. It had its own body of knowledge, its own style of practice, it formed its own society, and was soon to have its own journal. The Red Journal, and more recently Practical Radiation Oncology and Advances in Radiation Oncology, have tracked the evolution of our field over the last five decades. A close scrutiny of the most cited papers within each of those decades clearly documents our scientific focus at that time and one can track the emergence of the themes that underpin our practice today. In the 1970s, we see the development of the concept of organ preservation and the first combinations of chemotherapy with radiation. In the 1980s, fractionation and oxygenation were being manipulated and notions of 3-dimensional planning and delivery were being discussed. By the 1990s, RTOG-led randomized trials were reporting, and our understanding of normal tissue toxicity was greatly improving. In the first decade of this millennium, technical advances such as IMRT, proton beam, and SBRT made their presence felt. More recently, we have been grappling with novel systemic agents and the manipulation of “big data,” while at the same time “re-centering” with an emphasis on safety and quality improvement.

Today, Radiation Oncology can scarcely be recognized when compared with the “infant” specialty of 1958, yet its core principles remain the same -- the most accurate and most effective use of therapeutic radiation in the care of the cancer patient. We hope you enjoy tracking the growth of the specialty through the growth of its science over the last 60 years.

Anthony Zietman, Editor-in-Chief, Red Journal
W. Robert Lee, Editor-in-Chief, Practical Radiation Oncology
Robert C. Miller, Editor-in-Chief, Advances in Radiation Oncology

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1990s: The randomized trials report

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2000s: High-technology in the clinic

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