Helen Turner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology

Center for Radiological Research

Contact Information: 

Center for Radiological Research
630 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032

Telephone: (212) 305-6058



2007-2016: Associate Research Scientist, Center for Radiological Research, Columbia University, College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, NY

2001-2007: Research Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY

1997-2001: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Ophthalmology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY

1993-1997: Ph.D. in Optometry and Vision Science, Cardiff University, UK

1992-1993: MSc. in Toxicology, Department of Biochemistry, Birmingham University, UK

1989-1992: BSc. Dual Honours in Pharmacology and Physiology, Departments of Pharmacology and Physiology, Sheffield University, Sheffield, UK



My primary research interests focus on high-throughput radiation biodosimetry and translational research. (Please also visit U19 Project 1 website HERE)

• In the event of a radiological incident or accident, there will be a pressing need to assess, within a few days, the radiation doses received by tens or hundreds of thousands of individuals. Over the past decade, at the Center for High-Throughput Minimally-Invasive Radiation Biodosimetry, we have developed high-throughput radiation biodosimetry platforms for the automation of cytogenetics-based biodosimetry assays, which is a key component of present day homeland security. During this time, we have generated and validated a series of fully automatable in-vitro cytogenetic biomarkers and protocols to assess DNA damage in past radiation dose.
• To extend this research to the clinic, application of high-throughput cytogenetics-based assays will allow for automated assessment of individual and personalized global DNA repair capacity. This approach has the potential to facilitate the application of precision medicine concepts to large-scale cancer epidemiology as well as radiation epidemiology studies. In collaboration with faculty members of the Department of Radiation Oncology, we will use our developed functional phenotype assays to 1) correlate biomarker response with acute skin erythema in breast-cancer patients receiving post-lumpectomy radiotherapy and 2) to predict individual sensitivity to radiation-induced late-occurring injury (pneumonitis) in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) radiotherapy patients. Should a significant correlation be found with one of the functional assays, this would represent a potential high-throughput screening tool to identify individuals at highest risk of radiation-induced lung disease in a post-IND scenario.
• To date many of the much-studied DNA damage response (DDR) repair proteins are typically undetectable 24-48 h after acute exposures. The identification of new candidate protein biomarkers that can detect DNA damage longer than 48 h will be a distinct advantage in a radiological triage scenario. To identify long-lived biomarkers of radiation-induced damage which are sensitive enough for dose estimations 3 to 7 days post exposure, we have recently initiated proteomic studies to quantify changes in the protein composition of human hematopoietic T- and B-cell populations after acute exposure. The long-term goal here is to develop a diagnostic test device based on a panel of radiosensitive protein biomarkers that can be used for population triage after a mass-casualty radiation event, up to a week post-exposure.


Selected Activities

2007-Present: Member of the Radiation Research Society
•Journal Reviewer for Radiation Research, Radiation and Environmental Biophysics, Mutation Research

1998-2007: Member of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)
•Journal Reviewer for Experimental Eye Research, Investigative Ophthalmology, Visual Science, Current Eye Research



Bertucci A, Smilenov LB, Turner HC, Amundson SA, Brenner DJ. In vitro RABiT measurement of dose rate effects on radiation induction of micronuclei in human peripheral blood lymphocytes. Radiat Environ Biophys. 2016 Mar;55(1):53-9.

Xu Y, Randers-Pehrson G, Turner HC, Marino SA, Geard CR, Brenner DJ, Garty, G. Accelerator-Based Biological Irradiation Facility Simulating Neutron Exposure from an Improvised Nuclear Device. Radiation research. 2015; 184(4):404-10.

Turner HC, Shuryak I, Weber W, Doyle-Eisele M, Melo D, Guilmette R, Amundson SA, Brenner DJ. gamma-H2AX Kinetic Profile in Mouse Lymphocytes Exposed to the Internal Emitters Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. PloS one. 2015;10(11).

Turner HC, Shuryak I, Taveras M, Bertucci A, Perrier JR, Chen C, Elliston CD, Johnson GW, Smilenov LB, Amundson SA, Brenner DJ. Effect of dose rate on residual gamma-H2AX levels and frequency of micronuclei in X-irradiated mouse lymphocytes. Radiation research. 2015;183(3):315-24.

Halm BM, Franke AA, Lai JF, Li X, Custer LJ, Pagano I, Cooney RV, Turner HC, Brenner DJ. Pilot study for the establishment of biomarkers for radiation damage after computed tomography in children. Hawai'i journal of medicine & public health : a journal of Asia Pacific Medicine & Public Health. 2015;74(3):112-9.

Brunhild M. Halm AAF, Jennifer F. Lai, Helen C.Turner, David J. Brenner, Vatche M. Zohrabian, Robert DiMauro. g-H2AX foci are increased in lymphocytes in vivo in young children one hour after very low dose X-irradiation: a pilot study. Pediatric Radiology. 2014;44(10): 1310-1317.

Automated High-Throughput Biodosimetry Platforms (Select Publications):

Garty G, Turner HC, Salerno A, Bertucci A, Zhang J, et al. THE DECADE OF THE RABiT (2005-15). Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2016; 172: 201-206.

Sharma PM, Ponnaiya B, Taveras M, Shuryak I, Turner H, Brenner DJ. High throughput measurement of gammaH2AX DSB repair kinetics in a healthy human population. PloS one. 2015;10(3).

Turner HC, Sharma P, Perrier JR, Bertucci A, Smilenov L, Johnson G, Taveras M, Brenner, DJ, Garty G. The RABiT: high-throughput technology for assessing global DSB repair. Radiation and environmental biophysics. Radiat Environ Biophys. 2014;May;53(2):265-72.

Repin M, Turner HC, Garty G, Brenner DJ. Next generation platforms for high-throughput biodosimetry. Radiation protection dosimetry. 2014;159(1-4):105-10.

Xu Y, Turner HC, Garty G, Brenner D. A Rapid, Quantitative Method to Characterize The Human Lymphocyte Concentration for Automated High-Throughput Radiation Biodosimetry. Biomedical engineering research. 2013;2(1):16-9.

Turner HC, Brenner DJ, Chen YH, Bertucci A, Zhang JA, Wang HL, Lyulko OV, Xu YP, Shuryak I, Schaefer J, Simaan N, Randers-Pehrson G, Yao YL, Amundson SA, Garty G. Adapting the gamma-H2AX Assay for Automated Processing in Human Lymphocytes. 1. Technological Aspects. Radiation research. 2011;175(3):282-90.


Investigation of the mechanisms underlying ocular dry eye disease, inflammation and cataract formation. Characterization, localization and distribution of key transport proteins (Select Publications):

Turner HC, Budak MT, Akinci MAM, Wolosin JM. Comparative analysis of human conjunctival and corneal epithelial gene expression with oligonucleotide microarrays. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science. 2007;48(5):2050-61.

Oen H, Cheng P, Turner HC, Alvarez LJ, Candia OA. Identification and localization of aquaporin 5 in the mammalian conjunctival epithelium. Experimental eye research. 2006;83(4):995-8.

Turner HC, Alvarez LJ, Candia OA, Bernstein AM. Characterization of serotonergic receptors in rabbit, porcine and human conjunctivae. Current eye research. 2003;27(4):205-15.

Turner HC, Bernstein A, Candia OA. Presence of CFTR in the conjunctival epithelium. Current eye research. 2002;24(3):182-7.

Turner HC, Alvarez LJ, Candia OA. Identification and localization of acid-base transporters in the conjunctival epithelium. Experimental eye research. 2001;72(5):519-31.

Alvarez LJ, Candia OA, Turner HC, Polikoff LA. Localization of a Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-) cotransporter in the rabbit lens. Experimental eye research. 2001;73(5):669-80.

Turner HC, Alvarez LJ, Candia OA. Cyclic AMP-dependent stimulation of basolateral K+ conductance in the rabbit conjunctival epithelium. Experimental eye research. 2000;70(3):295-305.

Turner HC, Alvarez LJ, Bildin VN, Candia OA. Immunolocalization of Na-K-ATPase, Na-K-Cl and Na-glucose cotransporters in the conjunctival epithelium. Current eye research. 2000;21(5):843-50. PMID: 11262605.



Honors and Awards

2005: W. Gerald Robison Award by US-Japan American Cooperative Cataract Research Group

2003: Award from the Women’s International Science Collaboration (WISC) Program