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C. Norman Coleman, M.D.

Portait Photo of C. Norman Coleman
Radiation Oncology Branch
Head, Experimental Therapeutics Section
Adjunct Investigator
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Building 10 - Hatfield CRC, Room B2-3561
Bethesda, MD 20892-1682


Dr. Coleman graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.A. in mathematics, and then graduated from Yale University School of Medicine in 1970. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, and medical oncology at the NCI and radiation oncology at Stanford. Board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology and radiation oncology, Dr. Coleman was a tenured faculty member at the Stanford University School of Medicine before joining Harvard Medical School in 1985 as Fuller-American Cancer Society Professor and Chairman, Joint Center for Radiation Therapy. In 1999, he came to the NCI and became director of the new Radiation Oncology Sciences Program that he created to coordinate all radiation oncology activities. He served as chief of the Radiation Oncology Branch from 1999- 2004 and is now an adjunct member of ROB. He serves the NCI as associate director of the Radiation Research Program (in DCTD), and special advisor to the director of the NCI. Since 2004 he has been Senior Medical Advisor and chief of the CBRN Team in the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Operations (OPEO), Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), HHS. He has written extensively in the fields of radiation modifiers and, more recently, on preparedness and planning for radiological or nuclear emergencies. He received the 2011 Service to America Homeland Security Medal.


Dr. Coleman's current research program is based on long-standing interest in the tumor-induced and radiation-induced stress responses. The long-term focus is on developing molecular targeted radiation therapy. An overarching concept is of radiation therapy as 'focused biology' wherein radiation is described by the molecular events produced rather than by just the dose in Gray.
Based on long-standing interest in NSAIDs and COX inhibitors, a focus of the laboratory over the last few years has been studying the effects of drugs and molecular-targeted agents at clinically relevant concentrations. Using COX inhibition as an example, we have demonstrated that the gene expression profile is very different when NSAIDs and COX2 inhibitors are used at high versus a low, clinically relevant concentration and also that siRNA is different than any of the drug conditions. This emphasizes the critical importance of using clinically relevant concentrations for preclinical mechanism and biomarker studies. That the NSAIDs induced a cardiovascular gene profile in both tumor and normal tissue (Note- this limited clinical utility of COX-2 inhibitors not discovered until post-market evaluation) suggests that it might be possible to predict normal tissue toxicity of drugs using molecular profiling, an observation being pursued.
A new program underway that began in collaboration with Dr. Jim Mitchell is that of radiation inducible molecular targets that builds on our 'focused biology' approach in which radiation can create molecular changes within the radiation field. These changes may be useful in inducing or enhancing cell killing by drugs and molecular-target agents and would be a novel therapeutic approach. This builds on both the non-oncogene addiction and synthetic lethality models and may be a unique use of radiation therapy. Our first publication on this topic included gene expression changes and further manuscripts have been accepted, under review and in preparation studying miRNA and phosho- protein changes with single and fractionated doses. In this 'nano-IMRT' concept, the radiation dose and fractionation would be selected based on molecular target activation.

Dr. Coleman's efforts in the Radiation Research Program, DCTD include the Clinical Radiation Oncology Branch (Dr. Vikram), Molecular Radiation Therapeutics Branch (Dr. Yoo) and the Radiotherapy Development Program (Dr. Bernhard). The RRP efforts in addition to the grants management and support include: and development of radiation modifiers (Dr. Yoo), cancer disparities (Dr. Wong), radiation therapy technology and quality assurance (Drs. Deye and Capala), international cancer collaborations (Dr. Vikram and Daphtary ), overall radiation research initiatives (Drs. Bernhard, Prasanna and Wong) including radiogenomics , molecular therapeutics (Drs. Bernhard, Yoo and Vikram) and the support of clinical trials through CTEP (Drs. Vikram and Deye). There is ongoing collaboration between NCI and NIAID (Dr.Maidment) to develop medical countermeasures for radiation injury (Drs. Prasanna, Wong, Vikram RRP) that could have clinical application for oncology. Dr. Coleman and Dr. Judith Bader are subject matter experts working on the civilian medical response to radiation and nuclear related incidents in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response HHS.

This page was last updated on 1/15/2014.