Robarts researchers win a Movember Discovery Grant

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Robarts scientist recognized for his mustache is benefitting from an annual event that sees thousands of men grow one. Gregory Dekaban has been awarded a Movember Discovery Grant, a program that allows investigators to pursue new important directions in prostate cancer research. Each recipient of the Movember Discovery Grant will receive $200,000 in funding over a two-year term from Prostate Cancer Canada. Dekaban will collaborate on the project "Dendritic cell-based prostate cancer vaccine: Development of in vivo dendritic cell migration by cellular MRI in humans" with fellow Robarts scientist Paula Foster, and Dr. Pierre Major and Ronan Foley at McMaster University.

Their project involves the use of MRI to detect and monitor cells used for cancer immunotherapy. Cancer immunotherapy is an emerging area of research that involves the use of one's own immune system to fight cancer. One way to do this is to use dendritic cells. For dendritic cell therapy to be effective is it very important that they migrate in sufficient numbers to the patients lymph nodes, where they interact with T cells. Current dendritic cell based immunotherapy studies suffer from not knowing to what extent cell migration has been successful. This is where imaging can play a critical role.

Foster and Dekaban have been developing the tools needed to track dendritic cells after their injection using a method known as cellular magnetic resonance imaging (cellular MRI). This method requires that cells be loaded with a MRI contrast agent prior to their detection to be visualized by MRI in living subjects. To date, all of the work developing this technology has been performed in preclinical animal models. This grant will fund the first ever human cellular MRI study in Canada and will provide the necessary validation of methods in human subjects to move toward MRI of dendritic cell migration in cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy.