Dr. Corby Fink is working to develop new cell-based immunotherapies for cancer
Corby is part of a collaborative team that is working with researchers across disciplines to develop novel technology that can enable the real-time tracking of therapeutic cells in a vaccine using MRI.
“Being able to watch the migration of these cells in vivo allows us to see if the cells are reaching their desired targets, such as the cancer, and thereby delivering a therapeutic effect,” says Corby, who recently completed his PhD in the Dekaban Lab at Western University's Robarts Research Institute. “This real-time information is of great value in the clinic. You can see almost immediately how well a treatment is working.”
Corby’s focus is on the immunological aspects of cell tracking, whereas the imaging portion of the research is carried out in the laboratory of Dr. Paula Foster, also at Robarts. As part of his role, Corby performs the cell culture work to prepare the samples for further research and delivers them to the Foster Lab – something that requires only a short walk. For Corby this is more than a matter of convenience; he points to it as an illustration of how Ontario’s collaborative cancer research ecosystem makes research more efficient.
“We are lucky to have experts in so many fields working so closely together. In my case it allows me to bring my expertise in immunology to imaging projects. Working across disciplines lets us fast track the translation of our research into something tangible that will help patients,” says Corby. The MRI technology developed through the Dekaban/Foster collaboration is part of an application to conduct a clinical trial in Canada that was submitted in March 2019.
For Corby, collaboration will be essential to the field of immunotherapy reaching its full potential. “Immunotherapy will be combined with other therapies and require technologies and expertise beyond just those offered by immunologists – such as the MRI tracking techniques we are developing,” says Corby. “We will need scientists from many different fields working collaboratively to find the best path forward.”