Student Researcher: Ashley Makela, PhD Student, Western University
Project Title: Role of tumour associated macrophages (TAMs) in breast cancer progression
The presence of cells called tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) correlates strongly with breast cancer progression and metastatic spread. Studies have shown that macrophages are also recruited to distant sites (metastasis associated macrophages/MAMs) to support the growth of metastases, participating in the “premetastatic niche”; this is the concept that there is an environmental change by non-malignant cells to support the future growth of metastases. Despite strong evidence for a link between macrophage presence and outcome, there are still few strategies for measuring macrophages. We are using cellular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track and quantify TAMs/MAMs in animal models. This strategy could be utilized as a biomarker in the clinic for breast tumour aggressiveness and metastatic potential. The information regarding the extent of TAM/MAM infiltration could aid in tailored therapy decisions, ultimately improving patient outcomes.