Dinesh Thotala, PhD

Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology


  • BSc, Microbiology: University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India (1990)
  • MSc, Microbiology: University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India (1993)
  • PhD, Microbiology: University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India (1998)


Dinesh Thotala, PhD, is an associate professor of radiation oncology. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bengaluru, India, he did his post-doctoral training with Dr. Umesh Varshney, Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru from 1998-2001, Dr. Ayyavoo Velpandi, University of Pittsburgh from 2001-2003, and Dr. Dennis Hallahan, Vanderbilt University from 2003-2009. He joined the faculty in the Cancer Biology Division in 2009. Dr. Thotala’s research interests focus on improving the efficacy of radiation treatment through the development of technologies and therapies to effectively control cancer while having low toxicity in normal tissues.


Radiation-induced lymphopenia (RIL): Dr. Thotala studies radiation-induced lymphopenia (RIL). Radiation-induced lymphopenia (RIL) occurs in 40-60% of patients and is associated with shortened survival and poor outcomes in cancer patients treated with radiotherapy combined with temozolomide.  Dr. Thotala has found that autologous stem cells prevent lethality in mice treated with brain irradiation.  He is elucidating the mechanism involved in RIL to potentially develop a therapy to prevent RIL to improve the outcomes of cancer patients treated with radiotherapy.

Targeted Therapy: There has been increasing interest in the molecules that are expressed on the surface of tumor cells.  Dr. Thotala used these surface markers specific to cancer to image and or deliver drugs to destroy cancer cells.  Dr. Thotala has identified monoclonal antibodies (MAb’s) and peptides that bind to Tip 1, GRP78 that are highly expressed in various cancers including lung cancer and glioblastoma.  These targeting antibodies and peptides have been conjugated to radioisotope to optimize drug delivery to cancer as a potential treatment of human cancer and therapy.  Currently, Dr. Thotala is developing liposomes with these targeting peptides as a Theranostic agent.

Radioprotection: Dr. Thotala also develops radioprotective drugs for normal neuronal and gastrointestinal cells of patients undergoing radiotherapy.  His work has shown that inhibiting radiation-induced GSK-3b activity and its downstream targets selectively protect hippocampal neurons from radiation-induced damage, leading to increased survival of normal tissue compared to tumor cells.  Dr. Thotala has discovered that inhibitors of GSK-3beta prevent radiation-induced injury in normal tissues.  These inhibitors prevent damage to the brain and improve neurocognitive function and reduce injury in the intestine of animal models.

Lipid signaling and Radiosensitization: Dr. Thotala has studied the mechanisms by which cancer develops resistance to radiation therapy. Dr. Thotala has identified cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) to play a vital role in increasing vasculature and enhancing tumorogenesis leading to radioresistance of the tumor. Autotaxin (ATX) and lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) receptors, downstream of cPLA (2) and highly expressed in various cancers including glioblastoma and lung cancer. Dr. Thotala is studying ATX and LPA receptors as potential molecular targets for the radiosensitization of gliomas and lung cancer. Dr. Thotala is developing inhibitors of cPLA2, ATX and LPA receptors to improve radiation therapy against glioblastoma and lung cancer.


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