Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in B.C., across Canada and worldwide. Six British Columbians die of lung cancer every day.
The main reason lung cancer tends to have a poor prognosis is that the disease is commonly diagnosed at a later stage due to few symptoms early on. In addition, the drugs currently used to treat advanced lung tumours are not effective in the long term and drug resistance is common.
Although most cases of lung cancer are associated with smoking, about 25 per cent occur in patients who have never smoked. BC Cancer researchers have proven that lung cancer found in people who have never smoked is a completely distinct disease from that seen in smokers.
In February 2021, the BC Cancer Foundation announced a philanthropic investment of $15.3 million from the Leon Judah Blackmore Foundation to advance lung cancer research and care.
It is Canada’s largest known philanthropic investment specifically supporting lung cancer, a long stigmatized and underfunded area in cancer research. The transformational donation will place BC Cancer at the global forefront of innovation in early detection, treatment and high impact research.
The goal is to immediately begin work at BC Cancer that will see significant advancements in treatment and survival. Leading the vision, Dr. Stephen Lam, Leon Judah Blackmore Chair in Lung Cancer Research, BC Cancer, has been a pioneer in developing population-based lung cancer screening technology and systems, innovative breath-based detection tools, and advanced detection of the earliest signs of lung cancer.
“This is a significant moment for people facing lung cancer as we will seek out and find more cures. With this investment, B.C. can build on our unique breadth of expertise to develop innovative early detection methods through breath and microbiome research, artificial intelligence, new therapeutics to prevent and cure lung cancers, and methods to stop tumour resistance and recurrence,” says Dr. Lam.
For individuals facing lung cancer today, the donation is a beacon of hope. Burnaby resident Alan Soon is living with advanced stage lung cancer, made possible thanks to recent advances in treatment options. Diagnosed in February 2019, the never-smoker and his family were in complete shock.
Today, thanks to his progressive care at BC Cancer, Alan is on a maintenance treatment every three weeks which has kept his cancer stable and allows him a quality of life to enjoy with his wife and their two teenage children.
Alan believes this donation is, “a real game-changer, a donation of this scope gives hope to late stage patients like myself. It shows empathy to people with a cancer that has long been stigmatized and has not seen an equitable level of support. We hope that new treatment development will allow us to live with lung cancer as a chronic disease and to die with it, not of it.”
"Donations to the BC Cancer Foundation are the key to making sure B.C. remains a leader in cancer outcomes in the decades to come."
Dr. William Lockwood, Scientist, Integrative Oncology
Dr. Will Lockwood’s research lab at BC Cancer has a strong focus on understanding the molecular drivers of lung cancer and using that information to identify new and effective drugs for treatment.
Dr. Lockwood’s team has made significant progress in several key areas:
Dr. Lockwood’s lab made tremendous progress in sharing their work on the global stage in 2019, publishing nine papers in esteemed medical journals, with an additional three papers in revision. Numerous abstracts were presented at international conferences, including the CSHL Biology of Cancer conference and the European Proteomics Association 2019 Congress in Germany. As mentioned above, Dr. Lockwood presented at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Barcelona, a gathering of over 7,000 lung cancer researchers and clinicians from around the world.
In 2020, Dr. Lockwood was the recipient of the Early Career Excellence in Research and Discovery Award from the University of British Columbia’s Pathology department.