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CRH welcomes the prestigious Dr Tak Mak

The distinguished Canadian scientist, Dr Tak Mak, Director of the Advanced Medical Discovery Institute and the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research, visited CRH on Monday 3 July to give a fascinating seminar on future anti-cancer targets.

This article was first published on 20 July, 2017

Dr Mak believes immunotherapy has been proven to induce long lasting, durable cancer-specific survival benefit.

Dr Tak Mak

He has continuously challenged conventional scientific thoughts and forged fresh research paths. He first became widely known for identifying the T-cell receptor gene. This discovery was an enormous breakthrough in the understanding of the body’s immune system.

Dr Mak's research to date has made enormous contributions to researchers’ understanding of immunity, particularly as it relates to cancer. In 2011, he revealed the way that cancer cells adapt to environmental stress.

He is currently looking to gain fundamental knowledge of the biology of cells in normal and disease settings and believes that drugs may not be the best strategy with which to beat cancer. The disease has hundreds of mutated genes and Mak doubts we could ever accurately block the correct ones.

Instead, Mak is investigating the mechanisms of metabolic transformation used by cancer cells to fuel their uncontrolled growth, with the goal of identifying potential targets for novel cancer therapeutics. His strategy is based on understanding the cancer phenotypes instead of the derangements that lead to the development of the cancer.

His goal is to develop therapies that are not based on oncogenes or tumour suppressors, but rather on characteristics that are intrinsic to the cancer phenotype; aneuploidy, the metabolic state of cancer, and the fact that tumours are immunogenic and can be targets of an effective antitumour response.

Dr Mak has shown impressive results with immune-based therapies over recent years. Now that immunologic concepts such as immune checkpoints are understood, he believes that effective and long lasting therapies for cancer are within our grasp.

It was a great honour and privilege to welcome Dr Mak to the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health and learn more about how immunotherapy will provide long-term survival benefit for those suffering from cancer.

Notes:

  • In the late 1980’s Dr Mak created knockout mice; animals genetically modified to have a specific gene missing so they can be used to study the specific function of that gene. The animals have allowed Mak to explore the function of numerous genes linked to the immune system and cancers.
  • Throughout the course of his career Dr Mak has published over 900 papers in leading journals, created a textbook on immunology that was voted the best British medical textbook of the year, and garnered numerous international awards. He has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada, Fellow of the Royal Society of London (UK), Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (UK).
  • Dr Mak is the Director of the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and a Professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics and Department of Immunology, University of Toronto.