VIU professor develops imaging technology to take a deeper look at tumour metabolism

Kyle Duncan leans against a white railing.

Kyle Duncan, a VIU Chemistry Professor, is researching and developing technology to help visualize different areas of cancerous tumour tissues. Vancouver Island University photo

August 28, 2023 - 10:15am

Dr. Kyle Duncan is part of an innovative cancer research team that received funding from the Terry Fox Research Institute.

A team of researchers is leading an innovative project that will give clues to the origin and behaviour of cancer.

The Terry Fox Research Institute is awarding $2.4 million to the Spatial Metabolome Hubble Project. The Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant is led by Dr. Julian J. Lum, a distinguished scientist at the Deeley Research Cancer Centre in Victoria. The grant will fund three focused projects and the creation of the Spatial Metabolomics Hub together over the next four years. 

The Spatial Metabolomics Hub is led by Dr. Kyle Duncan, a Vancouver Island University (VIU) Chemistry Professor, and Dr. David Goodlett, Director of the University of Victoria’s (UVic’s) Genome BC Proteomics Centre.

“I am grateful to be a part of such an amazing team and look forward to the exciting research to come,” said Duncan. “This funding will allow us to further develop our technology to help understand how tumours can evade our immune systems.”

The hub uses advanced imaging technology to explore how cellular metabolism changes throughout different areas of tumour tissues. The aim is to understand why certain immune cells, specifically tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes, are more or less active in some parts of a tumour – a detail that is crucial to a patient’s survival. The hub is located at VIU and UVic. Duncan says both institutions have different but highly complementary imaging technologies that work in synergy.

“There’s a lot of research and development that goes into these technology platforms. We have continuous technology development in parallel with the cancer research projects to further the capacity of our technology to answer new biological questions,” said Duncan.

One of the biggest challenges the hub team is trying to overcome is that existing technologies can’t distinguish between the unique and divergent metabolism of cancer cells and immune cells at their precise location in tumour tissue. It’s like having a picture of space but without the information about where the stars and planets are located. The goal of this work is to create high-resolution images that allow researchers to visualize metabolites in tissue just like the stars in space.

The other focused research projects include:

  • Drs. Shoukat Dedhar and Poul Sorensen, from BC Cancer,
  • Dr. Robert Rottapel, from the University of Toronto, and
  • Dr. Seth Parker, from the BC Children’s Research Institute.

Funding for this New Frontiers Program Project on The Spatial Metabolome Hubble Project to Decipher Tumour-Driven Immunosuppression (MetaboHUB) is provided equally by the Terry Fox Foundation and the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation.  

For more information, please see the Terry Fox Research Institute news release.


Media Contact: 

Rachel Stern, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.618.0373l E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Chemistry | Research

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email