Scientist, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, BC Cancer Agency

As I alluded to last week, I’d like to tell you about a very exciting project in my laboratory and why it is so critical to have you as donors and the BC Cancer Foundation as partners as we strive to solve the mystery of cancer.

You can think about research funding support as a mix of two components: the first component is constant and projectable research formulated up to seven years in advance; the other component is highly flexible research that requires constant rethinking of concepts, integration of cutting-edge technology and novel research results. Government moneys and conventional grants are perfectly suited to support the first component and provide funding security for a research laboratory in the long run. However, for the latter type of research we need nimble funding models, as it is impossible to predict what will be an exciting area of research in a time span of one to two years.

That is where you, as donors and the BC Cancer Foundation, come into the picture. Simply put, without contribution of philanthropy, the highly adaptive and flexible type of research would be largely removed, and – at least in my opinion – this is the critical contribution that makes the BC Cancer Agency, the Centre for Lymphoid Cancer and my own lab internationally competitive and able to uncover innovative solutions for patients in B.C.

I am proud to say that we recently published novel research findings in the prestigious and high-impact journal Nature Genetics that garnered considerable media attention. Although this project was in part supported by grant funding, the flexible additional funds provided through the BC Cancer Foundation was the “difference maker” turning the findings into a meaningful and timely scientific contribution to the field.  

Briefly, we discovered first-of-its-kind mutations in the PTPN1 gene in subgroups of lymphomas that – on a mechanistic level – result in constant survival signaling in affected tumour cells. The major point I want to make is that the quick characterization of how these mutations work and what it might mean for patients was only possible because of the flexible funding that was available to us.

As we race against time to find cancer solutions, I always hold myself and my team accountable for how quickly we can achieve our goals. Research never stops and I already think about the next experiments and how they can be funded. In fact we have already started many of these experiments since we have published our findings in Nature Genetics. Our discovery of PTPN1 mutations has certainly a lot of potential, contributing to the idea of “personalized medicine”, but before we have finally reached the goal of curing more patients we must continue to innovate and invest in cutting-edge science.

Ok, how often have I used the word “flexible”? Quite often I have to admit, but I really wanted to make that point. So thanks to all the donors who have already directly or indirectly contributed to our research in the Centre for Lymphoid Cancer, and to those who plan to give us support in the future!

Christian