Titles and Affiliations

Assistant Professor
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas
American Society for Radiation Oncology

Research area

Testing the use of circulating tumor cells as a surrogate biomarker to predict the effectiveness of radiation in breast cancer.


Approximately 60 percent of patients diagnosed with early breast cancer will receive radiotherapy as a component of their treatment. Standard variables such as tumor size and lymph node involvement are used to guide radiotherapy treatment decisions. The lack of patient-specific biomarkers, however, precludes further personalization of a patient’s radiation treatment plan. As a result, some patients may be receiving radiotherapy when it is not needed, while others may benefit from more aggressive radiation treatment. Recent studies have suggested that testing a small sample of blood for tumor-derived material, such as circulating tumor cells (CTCs), may effectively identify patients with residual disease after surgery. For her American Society for Radiation Oncology Award supported by BCRF, Dr. Goodman and colleagues are assessing the use of this test to better identify those who would benefit from radiotherapy, guide radiotherapy treatment planning, and track the effectiveness of radiotherapy during and after treatment. The results of her proposed research may enable radiation oncologists to develop a more personalized radiotherapy treatment plan for each patient, with the ultimate goal of improving clinical outcomes and reducing unnecessary treatment-related toxicity.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Goodman and her team are retrospectively analyzing CTC data from 4,000 patients with high-risk early breast cancer who participated in a phase 3 study to evaluate CTCs before and after adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation. The analysis will look for correlations between the presence of CTCs and patients’ response to therapy. The team is currently assembling the database for analysis with all variables of interest and relevant clinical outcomes, and they are planning to complete statistical analysis in 2022.

What’s next

The second part of their research will involve a similar study design but in a prospective setting wherein they will assess the presence of CTCs in patients at surgery; and prior to, during, and after radiation therapy. The study protocol is currently under institutional review with a plan for trial activation in 2022.



Chelain Goodman, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Goodman received her undergraduate degree in biology from Swarthmore College and her MD, PhD from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She completed her graduate work under the mentorship of Dr. Hallgeir Rui and wrote her doctoral dissertation on mechanisms underlying delayed therapeutic resistance in luminal breast cancer. She subsequently completed her clinical residency training in radiation oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where she served as chief resident and currently has an appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professor in Radiation Oncology. During her residency, Dr. Goodman conducted translational radiobiology research under the mentorship of Dr. Gayle Woloschak with generous funding as the Brinson Foundation Medical Research Junior Investigator Grant Awardee. Dr. Goodman’s research interests focus on the identification and validation of novel tumor- and patient-derived biologic and radiomic biomarkers to tailor radiotherapy treatment decisions and techniques. The ultimate goal of Dr. Goodman’s research program is to improve quality of care by moving towards more personalized “precision” radiotherapy for the treatment of breast cancer.

BCRF Investigator Since


Areas of Focus