In a special event at the British Columbia Cancer Agency Research Centre on Tuesday, provincial and scientific leaders gathered to announce the naming of François Bénard as the province's Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging. Bénard comes to BC from Sherbrooke and is a key collaborator in TRIUMF's rapidly growing nuclear medicine program.
Ida Chong, Minister of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development, said that 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 quickly recognize 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." Bénard has been collaborating with Tom Ruth (who has a joint position with TRIUMF and BC Cancer agency) and Mike Adam at TRIUMF. In their spoken remarks at the ceremony, Chong and UBC Vice-President for Research John Hepburn acknowledged TRIUMF's leadership in the key area of molecular imaging.
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.
For additional information, please see the press release and background materials.
By: T.I. Meyer (based on announcements from the Province of British Columbia)