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Celebrating the life of
H. Rodney Withers
September 21, 1932 - February 25, 2015
Services under the direction of:
Bradshaw Carter
(713) 521-0066
  • Memorial Service
  • 12:00pm - Friday, March 20, 2015
  • Bradshaw Carter
  • 1734 W Alabama St (Map)
    Houston, Tx 77098

  • (713) 521-0066

I very much regret this huge loss and feeling the pain his family are going through, I want to share the hope that very soon "will be a resurrection from God", as the Bible tells us in Acts 24:15. Courage and strength to all your family at this painful time. www.JW.org

Gerardo, Kissimmee, FL

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Rodney Withers. Although Rodney and Don were never positioned (located) to be best friends, we collaborated in organizing a very successful conference on Prediction of Tumor Treatment Response whose proceeding were published by Pergamon Press. Both Rodney and Don are alumni of the Gray Laboratory in the UK, experiences that formed their drive to expand the scientific basis of radiation oncology. Rodney's enthusiasm for cancer research will be sorely missed. We extend our love and sympathy to his immediate family and his many friends at this time.

Don and Bev Chapman, West Kelowna, , BC

H. Rodney Withers (21 September 1932 – 25 February 2015)

Born in Queensland, Australia, Rod Withers graduated in Medicine from the University of Queensland in 1956, specializing in Pathology and Radiation Oncology before going to London University to become what he used to say was the first and last Ph.D. student of the famous “Hal” Gray (after whom the unit of radiation dose was named). His research thesis was built around his invention of a revolutionary assay to measure the survival of skin stem cells after exposure to radiation. After his Ph.D. he returned briefly to Australia before taking up a position in 1966 as Visiting Resident Scientist at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Working with Mort Elkind there, he developed a method to measure survival of intestinal stem cells after exposure to radiation, for which they received the highly prestigious Enrico Fermi Award in 1996.

In 1968 he joined the Department of Experimental Radiotherapy at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and became head of the department in 1971. There he used the results of experiments with the methods he had developed to dissect the basic radiobiological principles that underlie the scheduling of treatments in radiation therapy. This led to the suggestion that treatment outcomes could be improved by altering these schedules for various cancers, especially head and neck tumors. This possibility was confirmed in numerous randomized clinical trials in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1980 he joined the Department of Radiation Oncology at UCLA, taking over as Chair from 1994-2005. He continued his study of the effect of different treatment schedules, quantifiying the effects of accelerated tumor repopulation in head and neck cancer. This provided the foundation for more clinical trials where accelerated treatment was shown superior to conventional treatment for head and neck tumors.

Throughout his career, Dr. Withers served in a multitude of leadership and consultant roles in professional organizations and scientific societies covering the gamut of laboratory and clinically applied radiation research. He was acknowledged as an international leader in the translation of laboratory studies to clinical practice and was highly sought after as a speaker at major scientific meetings. He has been awarded practically every honor possible in his field; to mention a few: the Radiation Research Society Failla Award and Gold Medal (1988), the Kaplan Award (1991), the Gray Medal (1995), the D.O.E Fermi Award (1997), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists Gold Medal (1997), the Charles F. Kettering Medal (1998), American College of Radiology Gold Medal (2004), and the Radiological Society of North America Gold Medal (2005).

Impressive as his scientific achievements were, it was his personal attributes that have left the most indelible mark on those fortunate enough to have been his colleague or friend. He was a kind and truly gentle person with a wicked sense of humor, self-deprecating in regard to his own achievements, but always willing to help others. He had the unique ability of making the person to whom he spoke feel as if she/he was the only person in the room. He elicited intense loyalty among his colleagues and staff and was repaid by their total dedication. He will be sadly and sorely missed.

To summarize, Rod Withers was the pre-eminent clinically oriented radiation biologist in the world, who has left a huge imprint on both basic and clinical radiation research. He was one of the first stem cell biologists and the methods he developed starting over 50 years ago have explained many clinical phenomena in the radiation therapy of cancer.
Dr. Withers is survived by his wife Janet, daughter Genevieve, grand-daughters Sarah and Emma, and three siblings John, Judy and Helen. A memorial service will be held at the Bradshaw-Carter Funeral Home, 1734 W. Alabama, at 12 noon on Friday, March 20.

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Candle tribute lit by Denisejdixon — Texas

I very much regret this huge loss and feeling the pain his family are going through, I want to share the hope that very soon "will be a resurrection from God", as the Bible tells us in Acts 24:15. Courage and strength to all your family at this painful time. www.JW.org

Gerardo, Kissimmee, FL

Candle tribute lit by Dane Gogoshin — California

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Rodney Withers. Although Rodney and Don were never positioned (located) to be best friends, we collaborated in organizing a very successful conference on Prediction of Tumor Treatment Response whose proceeding were published by Pergamon Press. Both Rodney and Don are alumni of the Gray Laboratory in the UK, experiences that formed their drive to expand the scientific basis of radiation oncology. Rodney's enthusiasm for cancer research will be sorely missed. We extend our love and sympathy to his immediate family and his many friends at this time.

Don and Bev Chapman, West Kelowna, , BC


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