We interviewed Dr Corey Chan from Newcastle University to find out more about how our Skills Development Grant has created a unique research fellowship opportunity in primary bone cancer surgical advancements and led to our first ever £240,000 Consortia Grant.

Can you tell us about the fellowship opportunity?

This summer I had the unique opportunity to undertake a month’s research fellowship at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) under the supervision of Dr Anand Kumar.

The exciting collaboration between Dr Kumar’s research group at Harvard and the Newcastle University Sarcoma Research Group, led by Mr Kenneth Rankin, began after we presented our pioneering research on the use of indocyanine green (ICG) for fluorescence guided sarcoma surgery at the Connective Tissue Oncology Society 2021 conference. This collaboration has created the opportunity to investigate fluorescence lifetime imaging for the detection of ICG in sarcoma tissue, with a higher specificity and sensitivity than current techniques. Following positive initial results, the opportunity arose for me to undertake a travelling research fellowship to learn more about this technique through first-hand experience.

What did you do during your fellowship?

During the fellowship, I joined the team in imaging sarcoma tissue slides, which we had sent from patients who had undergone fluorescence guided surgery with ICG at the North of England Bone and Soft Tissue Tumour Service. I observed the processing and imaging of these samples on the FLIM system at Harvard Medical School, and I learnt how to acquire, process, and interpret this data. We had weekly meetings to discuss the results with input from histopathologists and tumour surgeons at MGH. We also performed cell-based studies with sarcoma cell lines and ICG to investigate the use of FLIM at the cellular level. For these experiments, I was able to share protocols and build on the previous work I have undertaken in our lab. As well as my experience within the research centres, I also met with Dr Santiago Lozano-Calderon, an orthopaedic tumour surgeon at MGH, to discuss the clinical and practical side of this research.

What did you learn during the fellowship?

I learnt about fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM), a cutting-edge imaging technology which has the potential to improve tumour detection, particularly for fluorescence guided surgery for bone and soft tissue sarcoma. It was a privilege to visit the Optical Molecular Imaging Laboratory at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center, a world leading research centre in bio-medical imaging technology, as well as Harvard Medical School and MGH. Through this experience, I have furthered my knowledge in the field of fluorescence lifetime imaging, acquired new lab skills and established an exciting international collaboration between our two research groups. My experience undertaking this fellowship opportunity, made possible by the kind funding from the Bone Cancer Research Trust Skills Development Grant.

As an orthopaedic trainee, it was a great opportunity to improve my understanding of both the scientific and clinical aspects of this work.

How will the future of this technology help patients?

We hope the future of this technology will help to significantly improve fluorescence guided surgery for bone and soft tissue sarcoma patients, to help ensure that the tumour is fully removed to prevent the cancer from returning. One of my main focuses as a clinical academic trainee is the translational application of basic science research to patient care. Importantly, the FLIM analysis showed promise on an osteosarcoma and a chondrosarcoma sample, so this research may be particularly relevant to bone sarcomas going forward.

How has the fellowship helped you and your colleagues?

Overall, through this research fellowship, I have gained a better understanding of fluorescence lifetime imaging and have developed skills which I will bring back to our research group in Newcastle. Following our previous meetings with Dr Kumar’s research group we have shared ideas and expertise to further this work, and this fellowship has strengthened our collaboration. We are continuing to actively collaborate on this research with the aim of translating this technology into clinical practice in the future. I would once again like to thank the Bone Cancer Research Trust for providing funding through their Skills Development Grant, which helped me to travel and stay in Boston for the duration of the fellowship.

Following Dr Chan receiving a Skills Development Grant we are delighted to share that we have awarded Mr Kenny Rankin, along with Dr Chan our first ever £240,000 Consortia Grant. The grant connects the UK with the Netherlands, Japan, Canada, and the USA to speed up the introduction of light-guided surgery to the clinic.

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