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Radiation, Cancer, and the Immune System

January 31, 2012

Wow, January went by quickly—it is hard to believe this is my final blog post for the BC Cancer Foundation.

I’d like to conclude by talking about my role as a Co-Leader of the Radiation and Cancer Immunotherapy Team (RCIT) at the BC Cancer Agency Vancouver Island Centre (VIC) and the research we are conducting here.

Years ago, a team of oncologists and researchers at the BC Cancer Agency on Vancouver Island discovered that treating one tumour with radiation caused the shrinkage of a second tumour that had never received radiation. This was quite surprising, and it turns out that radiation can stimulate the immune system and cause T cells to seek out and destroy tumours elsewhere in the body.

Two years ago, my colleagues and I formed the RCIT—dedicated to learning how radiation therapy stimulates the immune system with the goal of developing new treatments that can boost the positive effects of radiation. And we’ve made significant progress in this area. For example, last year we launched an ambitious project to collect 300 blood samples from prostate cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy— in eight months we have already reached 100 blood samples! These samples are highly valuable research data for our team.

This research would not be possible, though, without the generosity of patients who have donated these and other samples for us to continue our progress with this research.

There are many other reasons why I am so passionate about my role here, like our opportunity to help transform the way we treat patients. One reason for this is because of the people who support our cause.

The BC Cancer Foundation has helped make our research possible by providing us with the seed funding needed to kick-start innovative research ideas that would not be possible through traditional funding agencies. We use these funds to launch new projects and leverage additional funds to continue our work. On behalf of the RCIT, thank you to all BC Cancer Foundation donors for your generosity.

On a final important note, I must say that I am indebted to the patients, who despite having to endure the news of their disease and the uncertainty of the future, all want to make a difference for themselves and patients in the future. 

Thank you for trusting in me, and I promise you that I will continue to work fearlessly, passionately and with sincere devotion to this great cause. I hope to see and talk to you all before the next Year of the Dragon, 12 years from now.

Thank you,