Scientist – Genetics Unit, Integrative Oncology, BC Cancer Agency Research Centre

I started in May of 2014 as a Scientist in the Department of Integrative Oncology at the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre. As opposed to my previous training positions, this role is fully independent, which means it involved setting up my own laboratory with graduate students and other trainees that conduct research under my supervision.

Although it was quite a daunting process to get things up and running, I was able to hire some very bright and energetic people that made the transition much easier. I now have four students and a technician in the lab, all of whom are fierce workers making great strides with their own projects.
 

Background: Lung Cancer

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer related mortality in Canada and worldwide, responsible for more deaths than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined.

Although most cases are associated with smoking, about 25% occur in patients who have never smoked. The main reason for this poor outcome is that lung cancer is typically diagnosed late, when potentially curative surgery is no longer an option. In addition, the drugs that are currently used to treat advanced lung tumours are not effective long term, and drug resistance is a common occurrence.  
 

Bridging the Gap Between Research and Care

I was recruited to the BC Cancer Agency specifically to start a research program in lung cancer with an emphasis on genetic and drug screening and characterization. This complemented the already well-established Lung Tumour Group, which has world-renowned expertise in lung cancer genetics, imaging and early detection.

My lab’s role is to bridge the gap between identifying genes that are disrupted in lung tumours and determining how these changes cause lung cancer, using this information to develop strategies for therapeutic intervention. This addresses a major bottleneck in moving findings from the lab to the clinic, which we hope will lead to better treatment options for patients in a timelier manner.  

The BC Cancer Agency offers a tremendous environment for work of this nature, facilitating the interaction between researchers and clinicians that is essential for the translation of research findings to patient care. I truly feel that we are entering an exciting time in lung cancer discovery, one that the Agency is set to lead. Next week, I will tell you more about how BC Cancer Foundation donors have made this possible!

Will