By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - November 18, 2021
Denis Imbody spends his days as a research associate at Moffitt Cancer Center. But the cancer center isn’t just where he works, it feels more like a second home.
As a child, Imbody spent a lot of time at Moffitt after his mom, Inessa, was diagnosed with stage 1A non-small cell lung cancer in 2005 when he was just 6 years old.
He remembers traveling to Tampa from Fort Myers regularly for his mom’s appointments with her oncologist, Dr. Eric Haura. Inessa Imbody was part of a clinical trial where she was treated with a tyrosine kinase inhibitor to help shrink her lung tumor before having the tumor surgically removed.
Even after the surgery, the family spent the next decade traveling to Moffitt for appointments until she was deemed cancer free. “During one of those appointments, I mentioned my interest in research and medicine,” said Denis Imbody. “Dr. Haura told me if I did pursue that career path and needed an internship or assistance to give him a call.”
Thirteen years after meeting Haura, he made that call as a student at the University of South Florida. He had just been accepted into the Chemistry Program and wanted to know if that internship offer was a possibility.
"It’s quite a remarkable experience to witness Denis helping his mom beat cancer and then joining our efforts in developing new innovative approaches to treat cancers through our research. Denis is very inspiring to me."- Dr. Eric Haura, Associate Center Director, Clinical Science
“It’s quite a remarkable experience to witness Denis helping his mom beat cancer and then joining our efforts in developing new innovative approaches to treat cancers through our research. Denis is very inspiring to me,” said Haura.
Denis Imbody interned in Haura’s lab while finishing his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and international studies. Upon graduation last year, Haura offered him a position as a research associate.
He now works with other members of Haura’s lab on ways to combat KRAS G12C, a mutation that is seen in about 13% of all non-small cell lung cancer patients. It is difficult to treat patients with this mutation because of its resistance mechanisms, and the lab is hoping to find more effective treatments.
“I really like being able to make progress on things that haven’t been explored before. Every time we make a new discovery or new information comes up, I feel like it’s an accomplishment,” said Denis Imbody. “I enjoy being able to contribute to the research, especially since it’s such an expansive field.”
While Denis Imbody enjoys his job in the lab, he is looking to continue his education in hopes of a career in oncology, either going to medical school or pursuing his doctorate degree.
“I want to do essentially what Dr. Haura is doing — be an oncologist but also do research to help discover new therapies. It may sound a bit ambitious, but that is the dream.”