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TFRI News | December 02, 2020

Appointment to Order of Canada recognizes contributions to lymphoid cancer by former TFRI-funded researcher Dr. Joseph Connors

A former researcher and oncologist at BC Cancer has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada for his outstanding contributions to the field of lymphoma cancer research and helping to create more effective and better treatments for patients with the disease.

Dr. Joseph Connors, an award-winning clinician scientist, was recognized “for his contributions to the study and treatment of lymphoid cancers, and for his role in the advancement of lymphoma care in Canada.” Dr. Connors’ research was funded by the Terry Fox Foundation and the Terry Fox Research Institute for over a decade (2005-2016).

He was one of 114 Canadian appointees announced by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada on November 27, 2020. The honour recognizes Canadians appointees “whose service has shaped our society; whose innovations ignite our imaginations; and whose compassion unites our communities.” 

Dr. Connors was a medical oncologist with BC Cancer from 1981 to 2018. His clinical and research focus was on lymphoid cancer, including Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lymphocytic leukemia and myeloma.

During his career, and with funding from Terry Fox and others, he helped build and lead a research team focused on lymphoid cancer, employing cutting-edge scientific techniques to characterize its underlying biology, especially the genetic changes leading to malignancy and to treatment resistance.

“My team of clinicians and researchers built one of the largest and most complete databases detailing the clinical course, laboratory findings, and outcome of more than 30,000 patients with lymphoid cancers from diagnosis through treatment and on to long term follow-up,” Dr. Connors recently remarked. “We used this database to publish hundreds of highly cited scientific articles that continue to be used to guide the development of new treatment techniques for lymphoid cancer around the world.” 

He is an author on more than 450 peer-reviewed scientific articles and continues to be named one of the World's Most Influential Scientific Minds; his publications have been cited by other researchers more than 60,000 times.

Now retired from clinical practice, he is gratified that his clinical and research efforts have led to improved understanding of lymphoid cancers and through that understanding to more effective and better tolerated treatments.

He is grateful to TFRI and other funders for supporting his work. “Genuine progress against complex diseases such as the lymphoid cancers can only be accomplished by dedicated teams employing the most modern research tools,” he said.  “TFRI among others provided the comprehensive clinical setting and financial support necessary for such efforts allowing me to assemble a dedicated team and to provide that team with access to the molecular biologic tools essential for cancer research today.

Dr. Connors said we are still only beginning to realize the full potential of the newest scientific techniques such as genomics and increasingly sophisticated understanding of immune function as ways to unravel the complexity of cancer.  “I am grateful to have had an opportunity to help develop and apply these tools and I look forward to all that can be accomplished by their application in the future.”

(Adapted from article provided by BC Cancer)