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The power of individualized treatment in radiation oncology

May 13, 2019

Found in Innovation

Hello, my name is Dr. Ross Halperin. I am a Radiation Oncologist and Regional Medical Director of BC Cancer – Kelowna.

It has been nearly five years since my last blog post and I have witnessed a lot of progress at BC Cancer and in cancer treatment. Our forward momentum gives me a lot hope that we’re changing outcomes for cancer patients in B.C. and around the world.


In 2014, treatment options for patients were developing and my peers and I were energized with our search for better care tools. Today, thanks to a community of donors who have contributed to medical advancements over the past five years, we have better treatments for more patients than ever before. We’ve also continued our momentum in seeking the best, most effective treatments to break down cancer here in Kelowna and across the province.


We’re now in an era where we better understand the genetic drivers of an individual’s cancer. This knowledge means we can now create an individualized cancer therapy program for each patient, which results in more informed, exciting treatment options, which are changing outcomes in a way they couldn’t five years ago.


Our team is particularly excited by recent developments in radiation oncology where we are now capable of delivering very high rates of radiation to very small focal points in the body, known as SABR – stereotactic ablative body radiosurgery. This has led us to treat patients who have a small amount of metastatic disease with targeted radiotherapy.

This treatment can help reduce the burdens of cancer and we’re finding that it translates to improved outcomes for our patients. In some instances, where patients have just one to three metastases, SABR radiotherapy may cure patients – not long ago these patients were largely considered incurable.


For the last three years, I have served in the role of Regional Medical Director (RMD), a role at BC Cancer – Kelowna that didn’t exist when I last blogged. I’m responsible for ensuring the best possible outcomes and experiences for Interior cancer patients, alongside John Larmet, Senior Director of Regional Clinical Operations. John and I support a team of leaders at the Kelowna Centre who run much of the day-to-day operations, enabling us to focus forwards and outwards, with the goal of evolving cancer care to better serve Interior patients’ needs.

One of our goals is to collaborate with the region’s health care leaders on what needs to be done to foster the best cancer outcomes and experiences for patients and families in this region. To achieve this we’ve formed the Interior Regional Oncology Council – a joint group of Interior Health Authority leadership, BC Cancer leadership, First Nations Health Authority leadership and patient representatives.

I love my clinical work, it’s what got me excited about working in cancer in the first place and I’m able to spend half of my time in this role providing care for patients, which is rewarding every day. I continue to look after patients with lung and genitourinary cancers, and still do brachytherapy.


I close this first blog by stating that I’m really excited that we are transitioning into an era where we are now able to offer potentially curative options. Palliative care is also very important but, to transition some patients from a potential palliative situation to one of long-term disease remission, if not a cure, is very exciting and rewarding. 

Together we are breaking down cancer and changing the outcomes so more patients are cured and more can live with cancer longer than in the past.

Next week I am going to describe what a day at BC Cancer – Kelowna is like for me and some impactful patient stories I will never forget. 

Dr. Ross Halperin