Clinician-scientist, BC Cancer Agency

Hello again. In my last post, I told you a little about my background and how I came to be at the BC Cancer Agency. The journey from graduating medical school to becoming a Clinician-Scientist involved over a decade of training, gaining the skills and experience to both care for patients and perform research.

The role I now have at the BC Cancer Agency, in the Centre for Lymphoid Cancer and the Department of Lymphoid Cancer Research, makes use of all of this training and really is my dream job.

Caring for patients with lymphoma is both challenging and enormously rewarding. Sharing the journey with my patients and their families, witnessing the impact of these cancers and the successes and failures of our treatments, emphasizes the need to continue to improve the lives of patients with cancer.

This brings a real focus and motivation to my other role—a translational scientist. For me this word “translational” means taking (and sometimes making) discoveries from the laboratory bench back to the clinic to directly impact patient care. Specifically my role involves trying to understand why our treatments for lymphoma sometimes fail and also making tests that can be used in the clinic to make decisions about treatment.

An example of the latter is the recent translation of a discovery made over 15 years ago. In 2000, it was discovered that the most common form of lymphoma, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, was actually made up of two cancers. Unfortunately, at that time there was no reliable way to determine whether a patient had one type or the other.

We have now developed a robust test to separate the two forms, which will become part of the diagnostic workup for this lymphoma in the near future. This is important as we move towards using knowledge of the patient’s cancer to select their treatment.

In 2013, towards the end of my training, despite my desire to continue to work at the BC Cancer Agency, there was uncertainty about how a permanent Clinician-Scientist position would be funded. Thanks to BC Cancer Foundation donors, my work has continued when I took up my current position in 2014, after receiving a BC Cancer Foundation Clinical Investigator Award, and additional support for me to lead a Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia-focused research program. I am very grateful to the BC Cancer Foundation and its donors, without whose generosity I would not be able to do this work.

David