Developing image analysis algorithms relevant to immune-oncology

Philip Macklin is a clinician and histopathology trainee in the Oxford Deanery, currently taking time out of NHS training to complete a DPhil in Clinical Medicine. He has a medical degree from the University of Edinburgh and has been working in Oxford ever since. He is currently a Clinical Research Fellow in the Ratcliffe/Pugh Hypoxia Biology group based in the Nuffield Department of Medicine.

Philip is investigating how hypoxia within solid tumours affects anti-tumour immune responses. He is looking into whether manipulating levels of tumour hypoxia, or how infiltrating immune cells respond to this hypoxia, can increase the power of these responses to better control the growth and spread of tumours. He is particularly interested in the effects of hypoxia on the spatial distribution of different immune cell subsets within the tumour microenvironment. To do this accurately, he is collaborating with local mathematicians and software engineers to develop computer algorithms to perform robust/reliable image analysis of histology sections. Such approaches generate large datasets and, in parallel, he is developing techniques to curate and visualise the results as well as more sophisticated spatial statistics to describe these distributions.

He hopes to develop these approaches into freely available and easy to use software that will assist other researchers in Oxford to perform accurate image analysis, with particular relevance to immuno-oncology projects. Whilst likely to be used exclusively in the academic setting at first, it is possible that, in the future, these techniques could be applied to patient samples within the diagnostic histopathology laboratory to better quantitate biomarkers/prognostic features in histology images, helping to ensure that each patient receives the most appropriate treatment.

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