Tom K. Hei, Ph.D.

Vice-Chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology
Associate Director, Center for Radiological Research
Professor of Radiation Oncology
Professor of Environmental Health Sciences

Department of Radiation Oncology, Center for Radiological Research

Dept. Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health

Contact Information: 

Center for Radiological Research
630 West 168th Street
VC 11-205/218
New York, NY 10032

Telephone: (212) 305-8462
Fax: (212) 305-3229



BSc, Biology, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 1977

PhD, Experimental Pathology, Case Western Reserve University, 1983


Dr. Hei's research program focuses on environmental carcinogenesis, specifically mechanisms of chemical and radiation carcinogenesis/mutagenesis at the cellular and molecular levels. In risk assessment studies, in vitro neoplastic transformation assays based on rodent fibroblasts are used to obtain quantitative dose response data for environmental carcinogens such as tobacco smoke, radon, asbestos fibers, and heavy metals. Immortalized human bronchial and breast epithelial cell models are used to examine the molecular mechanisms involved in the multistage nature of human carcinogenesis. Activation of oncogenes, loss of tumor suppressor genes, altered signal transduction pathways in radon and asbestos induced bronchial carcinogenesis are currently funded research programs.


A second area of research centers around fiber toxicology, particularly, the how and why of mineral fibers, including asbestos and other man-made fibers, in causing lung fibrosis and cancers of the lung and peritoneum. Emphases are on mechanisms of fiber mutagenesis, effects of reactive oxygen species in fiber toxicology, and the synergistic interaction of asbestos with other environmental carcinogenesis such as radon and cigarette smoke.

A third but related area of research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of mutagenesis by various environmental carcinogens. Since exposure of human to environmental agents frequently involve more than one agent, the emphasis is on the identification of "molecular signature" among mutant induced by a combination of these agents.

Research Highlights and Press Releases (included only those since 1998) :

- The Journal of College of Physicians and Surgeons, Winter, 1998 “Mutagenic effects of radon”

- The Journal of College of Physicians and Surgeons, Spring, 1999 “Microbeam helps show how radiation mutates genes”

- Associated Press Reuters, April 26th, 1999, “Radiation may causes DNA Changes”

- China Science Times, April 29th, 1999, “Cytoplasmic irradiation induces DNA mutations”

- Physics Today, September 1999, p.19, “Alpha radiation can damage DNA even when it misses the cell nucleus”

- La Recherche, December, 1999, p.22, “Les degats collateraux des rayons alpha”

- Science News, May, 1999, p.278, “More than one way to mutate a cells’ DNA”

- Newsday, April 27th, 1999, “Study finds new path for radiation damage”

- The Journal of College of Physicians and Surgeons, Spring, 2000, “Findings suggests new mechanisms for cellular radiation damage”

- Columbia University News Releases, February, 12th, 2001, “Free radicals mediate arsenic harmful effects”

- Columbia University News Releases, December 3rd, 2001, “Low doses of radiation may pose more risk than previously thought”

- Science News, December 8th, 2001, “Low radiation hurts bystander cells”

- Science Horizon, December, 2001, “Low dose radiation in nature more hazardous than suspected”

- The Journal of College of Physicians and Surgeons, Fall, 2001, “Free radicals mediate arsenic’s harmful effects”

- Associated Press Reuters, February, 2001, “Arsenic triggers flood of free radicals”

- Environment News Service, December, 2001, “Low radiation dose may pose high risk”

- Research Brief, NIEHS Superfund Basic Research Program, #78, 2001, “Role of oxyradicals in genotoxicity of arsenic”

- The Journal of College of Physicians and Surgeons, Spring, 2002, “Low doses of radiation in nature may pose more risk than previously thought”

- Franfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Munich, January, 2002, “Strahlenschaden mit Fernwirkung“

- Research Roundup in The Journal of Cell Biology, Volume 156: November 1st, 2002, “Greater risk from radiation? ”

- In Vivo, Columbia University Medical Center, December, 2003, “Reassessing Radiation Risk”

- The Journal of College of Physicians and Surgeons, Fall, 2004, “Low dose arsenic may be treatment for skin cancer”

- In Vivo, Columbia University Medical Center, June, 2004, “Arsenic: potential melanoma treatment”

- Japan News, “Potential health effects of electromagnetic fields”, March 9th, 2006.

- Research Brief, NIEHS Superfund Basic Research Program, #154, 2007, “Understanding the underlying mechanism of asbestos carcinogenesis”

- Utica Chronicles, “Asbestos contamination in county office building”, Thursday, November 13th, 2008.

- Canadian TV, Radiation Risk from Fukushima Reactor Incidence, Wednesday, March 16th, 2011.

- Reuters News, “Fukushima and radiation health”, Friday, March 25th, 2011

- Columbia News Tonight, “Coastal contamination and seafood in Japan”, Friday, April 8th, 2011.

- Asbestos May Pose Health Hazards in Hurricane Sandy’s Wake. Huffington Post, November 3rd, 2012.

Selected Activities

Adjunct Professor and Ph.D. Mentor, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China 1995-

Adjunct Professor and Ph.D. Mentor, School of Public Health, Soochow University 2006-

Chinese academy of Sciences Special Appointment Professor, Hefei Institute Physical Science 2011-

Distinguished Visiting Scientist, National Institute of Radiological Sciences, Chiba, Japan 2008-2014

Director of Cancer Research Core, NIEHS Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan-2005-2009

Editor, Advances in Space Research (Radiation Biology Section) 2008-2014

Editor in Chief, Life Sciences in Space Research 2014-

Associate Editor, Journal of Radiation Research and Journal of Translational Medicine Member, Cancer Etiology Study Section, NIH 1995-2001; 2014-

Member and Chair, Special Emphasis Panels, NIH 2001-

Member, NIH Intramural Review Board, 2001-2003

Vice-chairman and Chairman of Sub-Commission F, Committee on Space Research 2004-


Ivanov, VN. and Hei, T.K. Regulation of viability, differentiation and death of human melanoma cells carrying neural stem cell biomarkers: a possibility for neural trans-differentiation. Apoptosis 2015 20: 996-1015.

Wang TJ, Wu, CC, Chai Y, Lam RK, Hamada N, Kakinuma S, Uchihori Y, Yu PK and Hei TK. Induction of non-targeted stress response in mammary tissues by carbon ions. PLos One 2015 Aug 28;10(8):e0136307. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136307

Gong X, Ivanov VN, Davidson MM, Hei TK. Tetramethylpyrazine (TMP) protects against sodium arsenite-induced nephrotoxicity by suppressing ROS production, mitochondrial dysfunction, pro-inflammatory signaling pathways and programmed cell death. Arch Toxicology 89:1057-1070, 2015.

Liu Y., Kobayashi A, Fu Q, Yang G, Konishi T, Uchihori Y, Hei TK, Wang Y. Rescue of targeted nonstem-like cells from bystander stem-like cells in human fibrosarcoma HT1080. Radiat. Res. 2015 184:334-340.

Liu J, Fang H, Chi Z, Wu Z, Wei D, Mo D, Niu K, Balajee AS, Hei TK, Nie L, Zhao Y., XPD localizes in mitochondria and protects the mitochondrial genome from oxidative DNA damage. Nucleic Acid Res. 2015 43:5476-5488.

Ivanov, V.N and Hei, T.K., Radiation induced glioblastoma signaling cascade regulates viability, apoptosis and differentiation of neural stem cells. Apoptosis 2014 19: 1736-1754.

Zhang, B. Davidson, MM., and Hei, T.K., Mitochondria regulate DNA damage and genome instability induced by high LET radiation. Life Sciences in Space Res.2014 1: 80-88.

Hu, W., Xu, S., Yao, B, Hong, M., Wu, X. Ye, C;, Wang, J, Hei, TK and Zhou, GM, MiR-663 inhibits radiation-induced bystander effects by targeting TGFBI in a feedback mode. RNA Biology 2014 11:1189-1198.

Ivanov, V.N., and Hei, T.K., A role of TRAIL/ TRAIL-R2 in radiation induced apoptosis and radiation induced bystander response in human neural stem cells. Apoptosis 2014 19: 399-413.

Zhang, B., Davidson, MM., Zhou, H.N., Walker, WF., Hei, T.K. Cytoplasmic irradiation results in mitochondrial dysfunction and DRP1-dependent mitochondrial fission. Cancer Research 2013 73:6700-6710.

The top five cited publications are:

Cited 476 times: Liu, S.X., Athar, M., Lippai, I., Waldren, C.A., and Hei, T.K., Induction of oxyradicals by arsenic: implications for mechanisms of genotoxicity. Proc. National Academy Science (U.S.A). 98:1643-1648, 2001.

Cited 458 times: Zhou, H.N., Randers-Pehrson, G., Waldren, C.A., Vannais, D., Hall, E.J. and Hei, T.K., Induction of a bystander mutagenic effect of alpha particles in mammalian cells. Proc. National Academy Science (U.S.A.) 97: 2099-2104, 2000.

Cited 448 times: Wu, L.J., Randers-Pehrson, G., Waldren, C.A., Geard, C.R., Yu, Z.Y., and Hei, T.K., Targeted cytoplasmic irradiation by alpha particles induces gene mutations. Proc. National Academy Science U.S.A. 96: 4959-4964, 1999.

Cited 382 times: Hei, T.K., Liu, S.X., and Waldren, C.A., Mutagenicity of arsenic in mammalian cells: Role of reactive oxygen species. Proc. National Academy Science (U.S.A.) 95:8103-8107, 1998.

Cited 243 times: Hei, T.K., Wu. L.J., Liu, S.X., Vannais, D., Waldren, C.A., and Randers-Pehrson, G., Mutagenic effects of a single and an exact number of alpha particles in mammalian cells. Proc. National Academy. Sciences (U.S.A.) 94: 3765-3770, 1997.

For a complete listing, please check out:

Honors and Awards

Chair Professorship, School of Radiation Medicine, Soochow University 2014

President, Radiation Research Society, 2013

Oversea Expert, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2012

Educator of the Year, Association of Residents in Radiation Oncology, 2011

Dynamic Achievement Award, Organization of Chinese American, 2008

Roentgen Lecturer, NY Academy Sciences, 2010

Co-President, ICBEST meeting, Beijing, China, 2010

Distinguished Visiting Professor, National Institute of Radiological Sciences, Japan, 2008-2014

Keynote Lecturer, Asbestos and Nanoparticles, Torino, Italy 2004-

Rudbeck Lecturer, University of Uppsala, 2004

Keynote Speaker, 9th National Radon Meeting, Las Vegas, 2002

Distinguished Cancer Center Speaker, University of Kentucky, 2000