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  • TFRI hosts Terry Fox Foundation run organizers

    by User Not Found | Jun 11, 2014

    An all-star cast of volunteers, supporters and speakers gathered at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver recently to gear up for the annual Terry Fox Run slated for Sunday, September 14. It was an inspiring workshop for all of us who participated.

    Terry Fox Run organizers from BC and the Yukon

    Terry Fox Foundation run organizers, staff and guests at their workshop in Vancouver in May.

    Led by BC/Yukon provincial director Donna White, the 40-strong group included new and long-standing TFF run organizers from across the province and Whitehorse; special guests who shared their remembrances of Terry; cancer survivors and family members who came to share their inspirational stories of courage and hope; and research experts, such as long-time TFF-funded cancer researcher Dr. Connie Eaves, and myself.

    “Science research is like a huge mosaic, with every person contributing one piece. Each piece is a very small, but very important, contribution and just a few missing pieces would ruin the bigger picture,” remarked Dr. Eaves, before providing a tour of the Terry Fox labs. She described cancer research as a huge team effort and that everyone who takes part in the Terry Fox Run is a part of our cancer research team.

    Thank you, Connie, for bringing this important point home. Together we are greater than the sum of the parts. This is the focus of the Terry Fox Research Institute – bringing together funded scientists and clinician-scientists as well as trainees – to solve the cancer challenge, which today we know involves about 200 different diseases.

    Quite frequently people ask me: “Why is cancer so hard to beat?” To me the answer is both simple and complicated. If cancer was easy to beat, then all life would be very fragile and we probably wouldn’t exist at all. All of life, from humans to trees to insects, relies on cell division, which is an incredibly robust process. Human life starts from the fusing of two cells (sperm and egg). Nine months later, when the baby is born, it will have 10 trillion cells. Cancer is out-of-control cell division; it is very robust and so it is very difficult to beat.”

    The best chance we have to fight cancer is to bring top researchers together to understand it at the biological, molecular and genomic levels so we can detect it earlier, and diagnose and treat it. We know that in order to make progress in cancer research often means only taking baby steps as science is a rigorous process. TFRI’s strategy is to build outstanding collaborative teams to make discoveries and translate results to benefit patients. This collaborative approach is challenging because there are many competing priorities, regulations, and processes within the academic and health care arenas where cancer research is conducted. However the efforts to build such teams are worth it because results are achieved faster and they are more likely to have impact on patient outcomes

    The workshop gave me the opportunity to share some of these challenges with our supporters and thank them for their work. I also learned more about how they are making a difference:

    • Clarence from Gitsegukla, a community of about 500 people (southwest of Hazelton BC), raised $1,200 last year selling Terry Fox run t-shirts!
    • Cancer survivors Selina and Anna share their personal stories experiences, demonstrating their own remarkable courage and how medicine and technology, due to research, are changing lives.
    • Vancouver school teacher Debby shares Terry’s story eagerly with her young students; within the hallowed halls of learning today are smart young minds that tomorrow may unlock new cures, inspired by a young hero named Terry.
    • Kerry Ann, who at the tender age of 9 ran and played with Terry during that summer of 1980, tells us how fun and ordinary Terry was – and how, in a moment, she came to know he was extraordinary!


    Our thanks to everyone who attended the recent workshops in BC and Ontario. Our vibrant mosaic will help us to achieve the possible!

  • New investment in research and web site launch

    by User Not Found | Jan 20, 2014

    Welcome to our new web site!  We hope you enjoy the new design and find this site user friendly, accessible and interesting. We would like to hear your opinions. This blog space will be used by me and others to share the viewpoints and perspectives of the many stakeholders who belong to our research community. We hope you will check in regularly as this space is updated and its development moves ahead.

    We recently announced a huge investment by the Terry Fox Foundation in two renewal and one new 2013 Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Projects. I am pleased to share with you my remarks from the announcement which speak to the excellence of the work being funded and the researchers involved.

    “Today, I am happy to announce that over the next several years, three teams will receive $13.6 million so we can address unmet needs in rare tumours, find new treatment for lymphoid cancer, and employ new techniques in imaging to detect early-stage prostate and esophageal cancers. Two of the three projects are based at the BC Cancer Agency.  Together they are receiving a total of $11.3 million.

    Dr. David Huntsman of the BC Cancer Agency leads a BC-based team that is investigating rare and unusual tumours. This team will receive $7.5 million to continue their work. This is the first renewal grant for Dr. Huntsman, who incidentally is also a co-leader for our Terry Fox Research Institute pan-Canadian study in ovarian cancer.

    The second award goes to a new team based in Ontario led by Dr. Brian Wilson at the University Health Network. He and his colleagues at UHN, as well as those at the Sunnybrook Research Institute and St. Michael’s Hospital, will receive over $2.2 million for the next three years to experiment with light and sound in imaging research. This is Dr. Wilson’s first PPG award.

    The third award holder is also from the BC Cancer Agency. Dr. Randy Gascoyne and his team will receive $3.8 million to investigate new treatments for lymphoid cancer, in particular, treatments for patients who relapse. Dr. Gascoyne’s project is also being supported with funding from a new partner – the BC Cancer Foundation – and we are grateful for this support.

    We currently support 12 PPGs. We hope in the future to increase the number of funded PPGs through other partnerships like this one (announced) today.

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