Prince George poised to be world-leader in cancer research

Elissa Morrissette, senior director, leadership giving, B.C. Cancer Foundation.
Elissa Morrissette, senior director, leadership giving, B.C. Cancer Foundation. Bill Phillips photo

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

One in two people in B.C. will face cancer in their lifetime.

More than half of those will receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment.

Precision radiation therapy can lead to better outcomes and BC Cancer – Prince George is leading the way in developing precision radiation therapy.

However, all that takes money.

“The BC Cancer Foundation is launching a new fundraising priority,” Elissa Morrissette, senior director, leadership giving for the foundation told about 75 people gathered at the B.C. Cancer Centre for the North Tuesday. “That is the establishment of the Northern Precision Radiation Therapy program.”

The fundraising goal is $1.75 million.

“We have the experts right here in Prince George who, with the support of the community, can create a best-in-class precision radiation therapy program.”

One of those experts is oncologist Dr. Stacy Miller who is the medical director at BC Cancer – Prince George.

“Radiation therapy has changed a lot over many years,” she said, adding those changes have enabled physicians to target smaller areas with larger doses. “The reason this is important is because is we’ve been able to show that we can extend life, improve survival, and reduce side effects with this technique.”

Dr. Stacy Miller
Dr. Stacy Miller

She added there may be a benefit to helping those whose cancer metastasizes, as well.

Dr. Rob Olson, who is also an oncologist at the centre, leads the world-class research being done right here in Prince George.

“We led the phase two randomized trial,” Olson said. “I was shocked and surprised, in a good way, that we actually looked like we improved overall survival and may have actually have cured some patients who had cancer that spread.”

Olson has been nominated to lead the phase three international trial, which could have been done in London, Ontario.

“Instead, I said I think this is an opportunity for Prince George,” he said. “I think that we should hire the people in this building, and possibly at UNBC, and we’re going to run it here. That’s going to propel our centre and allow us to recruit other oncologists … This is something we can do in our community.”

Within the next nine months, Olson’s team plans to launch two clinical trials.

The $1.75 million will be used in two ways.

Of the funds raised, $1 million to will go toward cutting-edge equipment that will make BC Cancer – Prince George, a global leader in precision radiotherapy. The remaining $750,000 will go toward research coordination and clinical trials.