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New research chair to focus on diagnostic methods for cancer


Vancouver, BC – Dr François Bénard, one of Canada’s foremost nuclear medicine researchers, has been appointed to a new research chair position to develop new methods and drugs to diagnose and treat cancer under a partnership between the BC government, the BC Cancer Agency, the BC Cancer Foundation and the University of British Columbia.

Dr Bénard, who has been internationally recognized for developing novel radiopharmaceuticals, has been appointed BC Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging. He was previously the 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, Dr 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,” he says. “This is a great research environment to build a long-term program to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment response prediction.”

The province has provided $2.25 million to endow the chair permanently and BC Cancer Foundation is contributing $2.25 million, from several donors, to establish the endowment fund. The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research has committed to providing salary support.

“The faculty of medicine is pleased to welcome Dr. Bénard to the department of radiology,” said Dr Gavin Stuart, UBC dean of medicine. “His contribution as a specialist using innovative imaging technologies in the treatment and diagnosis of cancers is another example of the faculty’s ongoing commitment to strengthening health care for the citizens of our province.”