Dr. Marcel Bally
Department Head and Distinguished Scientist, Experimental Therapeutics, BC Cancer Research Centre

Blog Posts by Dr. Marcel Bally

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 blog posts

Dr. Marcel Bally: A Look at the Future of Cancer Treatment

Looking into the future for me is always about looking backwards. When I first became interested in using drug delivery systems for cancer treatment over 30 years ago, one of the hottest research topics concerned “antibody-conjugated toxic drugs” (antibodies are proteins that can be designed to recognize cancer cells). This research idea faltered and stumbled because our immune system was really good at recognizing the drug-modified antibodies as foreign, essentially rendering them useless as therapeutic agents. Within 10 years, however, scientists in California overcame this problem and this...

How Philanthropy Fuels Research Into New Cancer Treatments

It has been recognized for a long time that treatment outcomes for patients with cancer improve when drugs are used in combination. Yet my research into drug combinations formulated as a single product is still considered controversial. Concepts developed decades ago recognized that two drugs could behave better than expected based on the activity of each drug when used alone - this is known as “synergy”. What was less well recognized was that synergy between drugs is dependent on the ratio of the drugs being used. Some drug-drug ratios were just additive while others were antagonistic (...

Drug Development: Looking for Effective Combinations

My work with reformulating the anticancer drug vincristine led to a pivotal moment in my training and development as a scientist at the BC Cancer Agency. I was given the opportunity to discuss my work with a group of world renowned oncologists and five minutes into the conversation, a clinician asked, “Why are you contemplating developing a new formulation of vincristine as a single drug?” I, of course, indicated that we had made a better version of the drug –more effective and less toxic. The clinician shook his head despairingly and indicated that vincristine really only works well in...

Drug Development: From Laboratory Research to New Treatment Options for Cancer

If you read last week’s posts, then you’ll know I got started at the BC Cancer Agency after being terminated (without cause : ) from a local biotechnology company. This company was financed by a US company that could no longer justify maintaining a research operation in Canada – another long story which I can share after you get a few beers in me. I was given an opportunity to work as a Research Scientist at the BC Cancer Agency and teamed with Pieter Cullis and others to develop a drug candidate acquired from the US company that let us go (again sort of funny given the drug candidate was...

A Moment in Time: How a Background in Biology Led Me to the BC Cancer Agency

So, how did I end up with a career in cancer research? I wonder myself at times, but always attribute my career path to a single moment in time. To explain it all I would have to get technical, so I’m going to try to keep it simple: I was using a dye to study a property of biological membranes and when I presented the work to Dr. Ben de Kruijff (a close collaborator with Dr. Pieter Cullis, my PhD supervisor) he indicated that the dye looked a lot like doxorubicin, a commonly used anticancer drug. This one comment really changed the direction of Pieter’s lab and my research interests…turned...

Dr. Marcel Bally: Turning Points in my Journey to a Career in Cancer Medicine

Hello, I’m Dr. Marcel Bally and I’m pleased to be blogging this month. Although I was born in Calgary and spent my first eight years in Canada, I grew up in Houston, Texas. This was the start of two of my long-term goals: 1) to find a way to return to Canada ; and 2) to never live in a big city . Happily I can say both goals were achieved. After completing my Masters Degree in Biology (Texas A&M University) I was accepted into the PhD program in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of British Columbia. My wife and I moved to Vancouver in 1980 and we have made B.C. our home...