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   NEWS RELEASE   

For Immediate Release

2009STED0022-000721

April 7, 2009

Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development

BC Cancer Agency and BC Cancer Foundation

University of British Columbia

 

RESEARCH TO HELP PATIENTS WHOSE CANCERS RESIST THERAPY

 


VANCOUVER – One of Canada’s foremost nuclear medicine researchers is developing new methods and drugs to diagnose and treat cancer under a partnership between the Province, the BC Cancer Agency, the BC Cancer Foundation and the University of British Columbia.

 

Ida Chong, Minister of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development, announced today that Dr. François Bénard has been appointed B.C. Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging. Bénard has been internationally recognized for developing novel radiopharmaceuticals that zero in on tumours too small to be found otherwise, and that allow doctors to see quickly whether a cancer is responding to treatment. 

 

“British Columbia leads the country in cancer survival rates today, and much of our progress is due to the excellence of the research this government supports,” said Chong, who is responsible for research. “Our Leading Edge Endowment Fund has attracted another world-class scientist to this province with the appointment of Dr. Bénard, whose work developing new radiotracers and potential treatments is helping B.C. forge ahead in this field.”

 

Before accepting positions with UBC and the BC Cancer Agency (an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority), Bénard was chief of the molecular imaging centre at the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke in Quebec, and professor of nuclear medicine and radiobiology at the Université de Sherbrooke.

 

As well as continuing his work on isotopes, Bénard will combine gene science with advanced nuclear medicine imaging to study breast cancer, prostate cancer and lymphoma. He will use genetic predictors of how aggressive these cancers will be – and how likely a specific treatment will be to fail – together with positron emission tomography and computed tomography scanning. This will identify patients who are unlikely to be helped through conventional therapies, and allow them to be offered more promising alternatives.

 

“The BC Cancer Agency and UBC have unique strengths in cancer biology, genomics, clinical research chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences. There is also an exceptional research group at TRIUMF for research collaborations,” said Bénard. “This is a great research environment to build a long-term program to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment response prediction.”

 

The Province provided $2.25 million to endow the chair permanently through its $56.25-million Leading Edge Endowment Fund. The BC Cancer Foundation is contributing $2.25 million, from several donors, to establish the endowment fund.

 

“The BC Cancer Foundation is very grateful to our donors, who have made such an important investment in an area of research that holds significant potential for improving patient outcomes,” said Pat Jacobsen, interim CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation.

 

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research has committed to providing salary support while the BC Cancer Foundation establishes its endowment fund.

 

“The establishment of a research chair in functional imaging speaks to the importance of this program in advancing health care and research for our province,” said Brian Schmidt, interim president of the BC Cancer Agency. “We are fortunate to have both a Province and a foundation that recognize the value such an investment will provide to the future of better outcomes for cancer patients.”

 

Funding for LEEF is part of $1.7 billion government has committed to research and innovation in B.C. since 2001. Bénard is the 18th LEEF chair to be appointed, and the eighth related to health.

 

Since 2001, the Province has committed more than $90 million to cancer research specifically. This includes $11.8 million for a lab being built at the BC Cancer Agency to house a cyclotron that will support Bénard’s research, as well as producing isotopes to treat British Columbia cancer patients.

 

UBC has already been awarded six other LEEF research chairs in spinal cord injury, prostate cancer, depression, addictions, early childhood development, and manufacturing technology for advanced forest products.

 

“The faculty of medicine is pleased to welcome Dr. Bénard to the department of radiology,” said UBC dean of medicine Dr. Gavin Stuart. “His contribution as a specialist using innovative imaging technologies in the treatment and diagnosis of cancers is another example of the faculty’s ongoing commitment to strengthening health care for the citizens of our province.”

 

Editors: B-roll of Dr. Bénard operating a PET scanner, as well as the images the scanner produces, is available at www.mediaroom.gov.bc.ca/DisplayEventDetails.aspx?eventId=445.

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Contact:

 

Gordon Williams

Communications Director

Ministry of Small Business, Technology

and Economic Development

250 952-0152 / cell 250 413-7316

Randy Schmidt

Associate Director

UBC Public Affairs

604 822-1266 / cell 604 828-0787

 

Nicole Adams

Communications Director

BC Cancer Agency

604 675-8105/  pager 604 641-5167

Judy Hamill

Manager, Public Affairs

BC Cancer Foundation

604 707-5934


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