Head of Sequencing, Genome Sciences Centre; Distinguished Scientist, BC Cancer Agency

I’m motivated by the success of new cancer treatments that activate a patient’s natural anti-cancer immunity. These positive results are hard won, following more than two decades of intensive research around the world, and unfortunately we don’t see the positive results in all patients. 

It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that when we do research we do not know what will work and what won’t. There are steps forward and back. However, with continued effort on multiple fronts, the factors that underlie successful treatment can be identified and used to inform the development of improved therapies that reach more and more patients in need. This is the aim of our new immunotherapy program at the BC Cancer Agency.

We will begin with the best experimental immunotherapies currently known and apply powerful DNA analysis techniques that are already well established at the Agency to evaluate and improve them, with the aim of making these types of effective treatment options more accessible for British Columbians.

There is sometimes the perception that cancer research, and researchers, can be disconnected from the difficult and deadly circumstances this disease so often creates.  Many of us, me included, may have gravitated to research from a young age due to the allure of the intricacies of biological systems, or by the labyrinth of the genome.

But for me, it is now the frank challenges faced by cancer patients and their families that are motivating. My wife Lea is a chemotherapy nurse at Lions Gate Hospital and, literally, not a day goes by when hearing about the challenges faced by her patients fails to drive this home.

We are well positioned in this province, with comprehensive clinical care, extensive research capabilities and the generous support of BC Cancer Foundation donors, to make very meaningful advances in cancer treatment and prevention. I am excited to have the opportunity to contribute to these exciting new developments.

Rob