r. Eugene P. Cronkite, an expert in radiation biology who was among the first to recognize and report on links between cancer and exposure to sublethal levels of radiation, died on June 23 at his home in Setauket, N.Y. He was 86.
In addition, Dr. Cronkite developed a center for the treatment of acute radiation injury at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
After finishing medical school, he served in the Navy as a Medical Corps lieutenant in World War II and directed the Naval Medical Research Institute in Maryland.
In 1954, he left the Navy to direct a project that studied the effects of fallout from nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific on inhabitants of the Marshall Islands. The work he did there described the likelihood of survival under varying degrees of radiation exposure and its effects on the nervous system and brain.
In addition to being one of the first to report on the cancer-inducing effects of radiation exposure, he studied its effects on bone marrow cells and developed a method of treating leukemia.
The procedure, extra-corporeal radiation, used a tube inserted into the patient's arm to direct blood out of the body and behind a lead shield, where it was irradiated. With the patient's heart serving as the pump, the blood was then directed back into the body.
The treatment destroyed diseased cells without killing too many healthy cells and was first conducted by Dr.Cronkite in 1965 at Brookhaven. It helped some patients and was considered an important advance at the time. It was replaced by newer forms of radiation treatment and chemotherapy.
In the 1970's, while chairman of the medical department at Brookhaven, Dr. Cronkite helped develop a way of growing human blood and blood- forming cells from the bone marrow, outside the body. This process made it possible to grow cells from leukemia patients and use them to test the effectiveness of drugs.
Dr. Cronkite was a founder and president of the International Society for Experimental Hematology in 1977. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981. He also was editor of The Journal of Hematology for 15 years. Born in Los Angeles, he did his undergraduate studies and received his M.D. at Stanford University.
Dr. Cronkite's wife of 60 years, Elizabeth, died in 1999. He is survived by a daughter, Christina Cronkite of Hayward,