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A Eureka Moment of Discovery

March 20, 2012

The moment of discovery for a scientist is when you know something that no one else in the world knows. These are the moments that carry us, as scientists. Yet there are different degrees of excitement about discoveries. Most are small and incremental, building a bigger picture of how something works.

There is one moment in my career that will be etched in my mind forever. This was the moment my technician, Jean, showed me the data of a new drug we were testing in a lab model of advanced prostate cancer.

First I looked at the tumour growth rates. Jean was excited and told me that the tumours were 100 mm3 when she started treatment and after three weeks, some of the tumours had shrunk to less than 35 mm3 and were even difficult to find.

Our drug, EPI-001, was making the tumours go away.

Then Jean showed photographs of the tumours from the data and I stared at the photos –I was stunned. The results were better than I would have ever dared to dream. I grabbed the photos and ran around the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre showing anyone that I could find.

As I mentioned in my last post, as a scientist you become accustomed to others questioning your work, asking, “Have you thought of this or that,” or, “Perhaps you should have done this,” etc. Instead, I saw the faces of others with their jaws dropped as well. It was clear we were onto something that could really impact prostate cancer patients.

Our new drug has received enormous interest – from drug companies, clinicians, and most importantly, from patients. Perhaps you read the story in news headlines. Here’s a link to the discovery announcement. Since then, the excitement has spread around the world including interest from the US Army Department of Defense, leading medical and scientific journals, and American Institutions. They are all interested in this prostate cancer research program. The world is taking notice of the innovative work happening right here in B.C.

For patients, this discovery represents hope within grasp. We continue to make positive progress with research of the EPI-001 drug compound; I will share a bit more about that in my next post.