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Cancer immunology and returning to Canada

January 10, 2012

My research focus at the University of Pennsylvania eventually developed into cancer immunology research, and you may wonder how this happened. Well that is a great question, one I often begin to answer by explaining how there are very few human diseases that we have truly eradicated or cured. History tells us that our best successes have come from eradication of infectious diseases like smallpox, polio, measles and a few others by activating the immune system through the implementation of vaccines. To me, it was quite simple that cancer could be defeated by stimulating the immune system, and I though my recent training in immunology and cancer would give me a unique advantage to tackle this problem.

Eventually I was ready to return to Canada and find a suitable place to set up my laboratory. I was immediately drawn to the Deeley Research Centre (DRC) at the BC Cancer Agency Vancouver Island Centre because of the DRC’s vision created by Director Dr. Brad Nelson. The sole mandate at the DRC is to focus research efforts on understanding how the immune system recognizes and destroys cancer, but more importantly, to be the first place in Canada to offer immunotherapy—the treatment of cancer by inducing, enhancing, or suppressing an immune system response—as a choice for the treatment of cancer.

In my next posts, I will tell you how I contribute to this vision and the progress we have made in understanding how to harness the immune system to fight cancer.