Last September, UBC cancer researchers announced study results that made medical history.
BC Cancer Agency researchers found that removing a woman’s fallopian tubes during a routine hysterectomy or tubal ligation dramatically cuts the risk of ovarian cancer. By taking this step with women who carry a specific mutation for the disease, or with women undergoing routine gynaecologic surgery, the scientists estimate the rate of ovarian cancer could drop by half.
The findings transformed the way hysterectomies were performed, and the results reverberated beyond British Columbia—even beyond Canada. An increasing number of patients are streaming to UBC from the United States and other countries, seeking treatment at what is one of the world’s top ovarian cancer centres.
“We can have an immediate impact on saving lives,” says Dr. Dianne Miller, Associate Professor and Head of the Faculty of Medicine’s Division of Gynaecologic Oncology, Chair of the BC Cancer Agency’s Gynaecology Tumour Group and gynaecologic oncologist with the Ovarian Cancer Research Program.
The study is only one of many recent, significant developments in cancer research from the Faculty of Medicine. Among others:
• Researchers discovered a gene that, when highly active, triggers an aggressive form of breast cancer. This breast cancer “oncogene” can override the body process that guides cell growth and division. Screening can determine if breast cancer patients have the overactive form of the gene, allowing oncologists to provide customized treatment.
• The Vancouver Prostate Centre is the leading such facility in Canada and one of the world’s top centres. The Centre has successfully paired academics and commercialization, with Pfizer, Takeda and AstraZeneca among companies that have signed major recent agreements. The research strength benefits the economy, with two spinoff companies that provide revenue to UBC.
The Faculty of Medicine’s collective strength in cancer research inspires many donors to support scientists’ work. One generous gift comes from the family and friends of the late Dr. Chew Wei, who endowed a professorship in gynaecologic oncology at the Faculty of Medicine in honour of Dr. Chew Wei’s aim to advance the field. Dr. Chew Wei had a distinguished, 38-year career in obstetrics and gynaecology in Hong Kong before retiring in Vancouver.
The gift by the family and friends of Dr. Chew Wei makes a lasting impact: the professorship comes with a mandate to nurture a rising scientist, freeing up time from clinical care—and allowing the flexibility to pioneer ever more innovative paths in cancer research and therapy.