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Origins of a scientist part II

Continuing from my previous post, what ultimately helped to navigate my academic career towards science was a fantastic science teacher I had in Grade 10. He did two things that caught my attention most. First, our year-long assignment was to bring articles about science in the news, and each week, my teacher would pick the most interesting news and breakthroughs to share with our class to discuss the findings and their significance. This opened our eyes to the idea that science was more than what we learned in our textbooks—it’s what is happening all the time and has major implications on...

Origins of a scientist part I

My name is Courteney Lai, and I am a PhD student in the Terry Fox Laboratory at the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre in Vancouver. I am supervised by Dr. Keith Humphries, who is the Director of the Terry Fox Laboratory, and Dr. Sam Aparicio (a previous guest blogger, too), the Head of Molecular Oncology. First off, I would like to express how honoured I am to be included in this distinguished group of guest bloggers. I feel privileged to participate and share my experience in the Research Centre with you—our partners in discovery . Although I am not a doctor (PhD), just yet, I want to share...

A PhD student’s perspective

Thank you to Dr. Julian Lum for sharing your experience at the BC Cancer Agency Vancouver Island Centre with us. Your immunology research is interesting, and your passion and dedication to your work is inspiring. Your post about cancer’s “sweet tooth” was an eye opener as well. For February, we are handing over the reins to graduate student Courteney Lai. She is a PhD student in the Terry Fox Laboratory at the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre, supervised by Dr. Keith Humphries and Dr. Sam Aparicio (a previous guest blogger). Please stay tuned as Courteney will be sharing her research...

Radiation, Cancer, and the Immune System

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...

Cancer’s Sweet Tooth

Admit it. It’s true isn’t it? You love the dessert buffet line just as much as I do, or more maybe!? Well, you’re not the only one… It turns out cancer cells love sugar too. In fact, in order to grow and divide, cancer cells become addicted to glucose, a type of sugar derived from the foods we eat. As cancer cells divide and form large tumours, they eventually use up all of the available glucose in their environment. In order for cancer cells to survive, they must overcome this hurdle by turning on a process called autophagy (auto-phay-gee), often compared to “self-eating.” This is a way for...

History is always right

When I returned to Canada to find a suitable place to setup my laboratory, I was immediately drawn to the BC Cancer Agency Deeley Research Centre (DRC) because of the DRC’s vision and it’s Director, Dr. Brad Nelson . The sole mandate of the DRC was to focus research efforts on understanding how the immune system recognizes and destroys cancer, but more importantly, to be the first place in British Columbia to offer immunotherapy as a form of cancer treatment. I saw this was a bold plan, but I felt it was strongly supported throughout the entire BC Cancer Agency. This internal support...

Cancer immunology and returning to Canada

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...

The Year of the Dragon: Fearless, passionate and devoted to a great cause

Welcome and Happy New Year everyone! My name is Julian Lum, and I am a scientist and Co-Leader of the Radiation and Cancer Immunotherapy Team at the BC Cancer Agency Deeley Research Centre in the Agency’s Vancouver Island Centre. I have the great honour of being the first guest blogger of 2012. I am dually honoured by this because 2012 is the year of the dragon in the Chinese Horoscope, and I was born in the year of the Dragon. I was born, raised and went to school in Ottawa. My initial training was in the area of immunology and understanding how HIV/AIDS causes the destruction of the immune...

A time to reflect and look forward

It’s with a heavy heart that I must raise your attention today to the passing of a great friend to the BC Cancer Foundation and a model Vancouver citizen. On New Year’s Eve, Vancouver business leader Milton K. Wong succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Mr. Wong was enthusiastic about adding to the vibrancy of Vancouver and a powerful ambassador of the importance of philanthropy and research. As co-chair of the Foundation’s Millennium Campaign, he was instrumental in helping to raise millions of dollars to construct the BC Cancer Agency’s Research Centre where researchers are making breakthrough...

One last thing…

It is my tenet, and I use this for my children as well as my students, that one’s objective in any situation is to make it better. To stand back and observe, and then engage in a way that makes it better. It can be a simple game in the schoolyard gone awry or an operating room that has run into catastrophe. Anyone can observe the obvious negatives, and a few can envision positive change, but the real achievement is to enact to make transparent, visible, palpable positive change. That is the marker of success. I am resolute that BrainCare BC adheres to that fundamental—to do otherwise would be...

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