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Ethel Ngen

A woman, Dr. Ethel Ngen, with braided black hair and dark brown eyes wearing a light blue blouse smiles at the camera.

Dr. Ethel Ngen and her team are using MRI to uncover and document biomarkers for RIBI. Sharing their images could help clinical doctors and radiologists everywhere better identify and treat brain injuries caused by radiation.

Credit: National Cancer Institute
  • Assistant Professor, Radiology and Radiological Science
  • Principal Investigator, Responsive Imaging BioSensors and BioEngineering Lab, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine 

Dr. Ethel Ngen (she/her) was a child when her uncle developed a brain tumor and experienced cognitive problems from treatment. “It just really changed him,” Ethel said.

Now, Ethel studies radiation-induced brain injury (RIBI)—damage to the brain caused by radiation treatment. RIBI can have devastating effects on memory and learning, especially for survivors of childhood cancer.

Ethel’s team uses MRI to find biomarkers that indicate brain damage from radiation. “The biomarkers are like a car’s check engine lights,” Ethel said. “Physicians can see there’s a problem when the lights are on, and they can try to fix it. When the lights are off, they know everything is OK.”

Imaging data from Ethel’s lab, used alongside neurological testing, could help doctors better recognize and treat RIBI and understand who is at risk of injury—an urgent need as increasing numbers of children with brain tumors are surviving into adulthood and living with RIBI.

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