Although I’m now the Director of the Deeley Research Centre (DRC) at the BC Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Island Centre, I actually came to cancer research quite late in my academic career. I was completing my Ph.D. in embryology (the study of how animal and human eggs develop) at the University of California at Berkeley when I started to think about what my next challenge would be.
It was at this time when my wife and I learned about her mother’s ovarian cancer diagnosis. I was in shock. Never before had I been so close to cancer. As I learned more about cancer during her journey, I was surprised to find out about the lack of effective early detection methods at that time. I was also surprised by the lack of effective treatments for advanced cancers such as hers.
I was convinced that the situation could be better and I made up my mind to move my career in the direction of cancer research. There had been a number of seminars on immunology (the study of the immune system) at Berkeley back then, and I instinctively thought there must be a link between the immune system and cancer. So, I decided to undertake post-doctoral studies in cancer immunology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, a leader in this area. This lead to a faculty position and other career opportunities, such that my stint in Seattle ended up lasting 12 years. But being from Vancouver originally, I was always on the lookout for a job that would bring me back to B.C.
The right fit came when I heard the Agency was going to include an integrated research facility in the new Vancouver Island Centre in Victoria. I had always wanted to live in Victoria, and when the chance came in 2003 to become Director of the Deeley Research Centre (DRC) and lead a new cancer immunology program, it was the opportunity of a lifetime for me.
I’m looking forward to being February’s guest blogger and sharing more with you about the DRC and our work in cancer immunology.