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Cancer Imaging and Diagnostics


Dr. Francois Benard

François Bénard is the Vice-President, Research at the BC Cancer agency, a distinguished scientist at the BC Cancer Research Center and Professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of British Columbia. He holds the BC Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging. As a clinician scientist, his research interests are in positron emission tomography (PET), nuclear medicine, cancer imaging and targeted radionuclide therapy. His team developed several new radiopharmaceuticals targeting tumour receptors, notably peptides and small molecule ligands. He initiated the program that developed cyclotron production of 99mTc, now in clinical trials at multiple sites in Canada. He has established extensive multidisciplinary collaborations, and he and his colleagues were awarded the 2015 Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering by NSERC.

Dr. Connie Eaves

Experiments in this laboratory and elsewhere have established the existence in adults (both mouse and man) of primitive hematopoietic stem cells capable of permanently reconstituting the production of mature blood cells in marrow-ablated or suppressed recipients. A major part of our work continues to focus on the development, validation and use of quantitative assays that are specific for biologically distinct subsets of these stem cells using syngeneic (mouse-mouse) and xenogeneic (human-mouse) hosts. We have also identified a developmental “switch” that alters stem cell proliferation and self-renewal control in the post-natal period. We are now trying to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying each of these causes of variable stem cell behavior using defined culture systems, gene transfer strategies, and genome-wide gene expression analyses. We have pioneered the development of quantitative assays for normal mouse and human breast epithelial stem cells and these are being used to identify their distinguishing features and growth regulation. Studies to adapt these methods for application to human breast cancer are underway. The objective is to provide a basis for analyzing molecular and genetic determinants of breast cancer at the level of the breast cancer stem cell and thereby develop more rational, patient-targeted therapies.

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Dr. Cathie Garnis

Our primary research interests are focused around head and neck malignancies. These are a group of biologically similar tumors originating from tissue of the upper aerodigestive tract, including the lip, oral cavity (mouth), nasal passages, paranasal sinuses, oropharynx, and larynx. More than 4,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with this type of cancer this year and approximately 1,600 of them will die from it.

Currently, histopathological criteria are the gold standard for grading and classifying many tumor types. In recent years it has become clear that cancers with very similar morphologies may have drastically different underlying gene changes. Given that cancer is a disease driven by accumulated gene changes, it is imperative that we determine which of these changes are associated with specific clinical parameters. This will ultimately give us insight into mechanisms driving observed clinical behaviors (chemoresistance, metastasis, etc.) and provide us with effective biomarkers for guiding treatment strategies.

At the Garnis Lab, we are using molecular profiles of head and neck malignancies to better understand the gene changes involved in initiation and progression of this disease. We are looking into dysregulation of the genome and transcriptome (including non-coding RNAs) to develop molecular stratifications for what is presently treated as a homogeneous disease.

In addition to analyzing tumor tissues, we are investigating the utility of surface epithelial markers and blood-based biomarkers for managing disease. Surface epithelial markers may arise due to malignancy-associated changes (MACs) in normal tissues and may be useful for detecting disease when tumors arise in inaccessible locations, such as tonsillar crypts, which is common in the oropharynx. 

Dr. Stephen Lam

Stephen Lam MD, FRCPC is Professor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia and a Distinguished Scientist, the Leon Judah Blackmore Chair in lung cancer research and MDS-Rix endowed director of translation lung cancer research at the BC Cancer Research Center. He chairs the BC Cancer Agency Provincial Lung Tumor Group. His research interest is in screening, chemoprevention and endoscopic diagnosis of early lung cancer. He has published over 280 peer reviewed papers and book chapters. He was the recipient of the IASLC Joseph Cullen Award for life-time scientific achievements in lung cancer prevention research, the Friesen Rygiel Award for Outstanding Canadian Academic Discovery, the Gustav Killian Medal by the World Association of Bronchology for pioneering contributions to the field early lung cancer diagnosis, as well as the Killam Research Prize in Applied Sciences and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of British Columbia. Dr. Lam received his medical training at the University of Toronto. He joined the UBC Faculty of Medicine in 1979 and the BC Cancer Agency in 1984.

Dr. Wan Lam

Dr. Lam’s laboratory at the BC Cancer Research Institute is known for multi-dimensional approaches to develop combinatorial detection and treatment strategies. His team has developed whole-genome technologies and bioinformatic tools for tracking genetic, epigenetic, and gene expression events in order to identify genes and pathways critical to cancer progression and treatment responses. His research team focuses on (1) the involvement of developmental genes and non-coding RNA in cancer (2) the biology of lung cancer and COPD in smokers, former smokers, and non-smokers, (3) immune cells in the tumour microenvironment, (4) the genetic basis of aggressiveness, metastasis, and treatment response, and (5) molecular mechanisms of environmental carcinogenesis.

Dr. Pierre Lane

Dr. Lane is interested in the in vivo application of optical imaging, tissue optics, and spectroscopy for the early detection, diagnosis, and management of cancer. He develops and evaluates new optical tools to address unmet clinical needs and works closely with clinical collaborators to evaluate and test these tools in a clinical context. These tools include instrumentation, software, computer algorithms, systems and devices that can be used clinically or in a laboratory to measure the structural, morphological, functional, biochemical or molecular characteristics of tissue. Active projects involve the application of optical coherence tomography, confocal microscopy, and autofluorescence imaging to the lung, oral cavity, fallopian tubes, and cervix.

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Dr. Joseph Lau

Dr. Joseph Lau is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and a Scientist in the Department of Integrative Oncology at the BC Cancer Research Institute (BCCRI). Dr. Lau received his PhD from UBC under the supervision of Dr. François Bénard, where he developed radiopharmaceutical agents for imaging tumour hypoxia. While he was a trainee at BCCRI, Dr. Lau was a recipient of the Lloyd Skarsgard Research Excellence Prize. Dr. Lau undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Dr. Xiaoyuan Chen’s Lab, where he developed radiopharmaceuticals targeting different immuno-oncology targets for therapy. In 2020, Dr. Lau was recognized by the Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging as an early career professional “Ones to Watch.” Before rejoining UBC, Dr. Lau was the Associate Director, Discovery at Alpha-9 Theranostics, a radiopharmaceutical company based in Vancouver BC. His research interests include the identification of cancer biomarkers for theranostic application, evaluation of novel pharmacophores and radioisotopes for radiopharmaceutical development, and strategies to enhance therapeutic indexes for targeted radiotherapy.

Dr. Tim Lee

Dr. Tim Lee received his PhD in computer science in 2001. He is currently a Senior Scientist in Cancer Control Research at the BC Cancer Agency, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science, University of British Columbia. His research interests include processing and analyzing dermoscopic images and wide-area skin images, developing non-invasive laser speckle techniques for skin cancer detection and determining risk factors of melanoma.

Dr. Kuo-Shyan Lin

Dr. Kuo-Shyan Lin studied nuclear engineering (BS) and health physics (MS) at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, Taiwan. He then undertook his doctoral and postdoctoral training in radiochemistry at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. After continuing his work as a Research Associate at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, and then as an Assistant Professor at University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Lin joined BC Cancer Agency (BCCA) in 2009. He is currently an Assistant Professor in Department of Radiology at University of British Columbia, and a Senior Scientist in BCCA Department of Molecular Oncology. He also heads the Radiochemistry Program at the BCCA Centre of Excellence for Functional Cancer Imaging. Dr. Lin’s research focuses on the development of radiolabeled small molecules, peptides and antibodies for imaging (detection) and radiotherapy of various cancers.

Dr. Calum MacAulay

Dr. Calum MacAulay is currently the Head of the Integrative Oncology Department at the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre (BC Cancer Agency). His group’s motivation is development and translation of technology from basic research into clinically applied procedures. His work focuses on the detection and imaging of early cancers at both the macroscopic and microscopic level using light and its interaction with cells and tissue. He has placed a particular emphasis on cancers of the lung, oral cavity, cervix and prostate. His research interests include the screening and detection of early cancers and the modeling of cancerous processes at multiple space scales (i.e. from the level of individual proteins within cells to the level of an entire region of tissue). He has worked to develop and optimize many types of technology in order to undertake his work (automated image cytometry, quantitative image pathology in absorption and fluorescence microscopy, spatial biology and optical coherence tomography) much of which have found their way in to clinically used devices. Some of these devices are already effecting patient outcomes. Current focus is on machine learning and deep learning approaches applied to highly multiplexed immunohistochemistry spatial biology, lung and prostate biomarkers of tumour aggressiveness, and lung cancer screening and early detection.

Dr. Kelly McNagny

Dr. Kelly McNagny obtained a BSc in Biology and Biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts and subsequently a PhD in Cellular Immunology at the U of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). At UAB he worked with Dr. Max D Cooper, a founding father of B cell immunology, and his research focused on cell surface proteins that regulate B cell maturation and homing. He then moved to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany where he performed postdoctoral studies with Dr. Thomas Graf and his work focused on transcriptional control of stem cell fate and the commitment to macrophage, eosinophil and thrombocyte development. He also identified a number of novel hematopoietic stem cell surface proteins (the CD34 family) and this then became the research focus of his own laboratory at The Biomedical Research Centre, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He is currently a full professor in the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Genetics where his work focuses on stem cell behaviour, innate immune responses, inflammatory disease, cancer biology and immunotherapeutics. His research relies heavily on the use of transgenic mice and animal models of human inflammatory disease as well as high-throughput “omics”technologies to reveal the immune components that determine the outcome of human disease. Nationally, he has filled leadership roles in the Stem Cell Network Centre of Excellence, the Centre for Drug Research and Development and the AllerGen Network Centre of Excellence. He is currently Co-leader of the Immunotherapeutics Cluster at UBC and is UBCs Delegate to CIHR. Twitter: @KMcNagnyLab.

Dr. Torsten Nielsen

Prof Torsten Nielsen is an MD/PhD clinician-scientist in the Department of Pathology, who specializes in sarcomas and breast cancer. He works to translate genomic discoveries into practical clinical diagnostics and treatments. Some of his successes include the development of new diagnostic immunohistochemistry and nanoString assays for sarcomas and breast cancer molecular subtypes, international standardization of Ki67 testing, FDA and EU clearance of the PAM50 (Prosigna) assay for breast cancer risk, and contributions to clinical trials for fusion oncogene sarcomas and for the safe de-escalation of breast cancer chemo- and radiotherapy in low risk women. His current projects listed at and current lab members at

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Dr. Arman Rahmim

Dr. Rahmim is Professor of Radiology and Physics at the University of British Columbia (UBC) as well as Distinguished Scientist and Provincial Medical Imaging Physicist at BC Cancer. Following doctoral studies at UBC, he was recruited by Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in 2005 to pursue research at the JHU Department of Radiology and to lead the high resolution brain PET imaging physics program. In 2018, he was recruited back to Vancouver, where his laboratory pursues interdisciplinary research towards discovery of enhanced biomarkers of cancer from quantitative nuclear medicine imaging modalities (PET and SPECT). He also leads a provincial PET physics program at BC Cancer, and aims to develop solutions that can transform clinical practice and make a difference in healthcare and in people’s lives.

Dr. Paul Schaffer

Dr. Paul Schaffer graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1998 with a BSc in chemistry and biochemistry. From there he began his MSc in chemistry at McMaster University and transferred directly in the Ph.D. program two years later. His doctoral work focused on the design and synthesis of technetium and rhenium chelates as potential new radioimaging or radiotherapy agents. After successfully completing his doctoral thesis in 2003, Dr. Schaffer stayed at McMaster for a brief period of post doctoral work and then settled as a Research Scientist at the McMaster Nuclear Reactor (MNR). In this role, Dr. Schaffer was responsible for demonstrating medical applications for isotopes produced at MNR. In 2006, Dr. Schaffer entered the private sector as a Lead Scientist at General Electric Global Research in upstate NY. There, he was responsible for developing novel radiotracers for GE Healthcare. In the latter half of 2009, Dr. Schaffer returned to Canada to accept his new role as Deputy Head, and is now Head of the Life Sciences program at TRIUMF. He is responsible for maintaining TRIUMF’s medical isotope and radiotracer production programs in support of neurological and oncology research. He also leads a research program geared toward developing novel radiopharmaceutical compounds for imaging and diagnosis of disease.

Dr. Haishan Zeng

Dr. Haishan Zeng is a distinguished scientist with the Integrative Oncology Department (Imaging Unit) of the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre, a professor of Dermatology and Skin Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and associate member of UBC Departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Physics & Astronomy. For over 28 years, Dr. Zeng’s research has been focused on developing various optical imaging and spectroscopy techniques for improving early cancer detection. He has published over 151 refereed journal papers, 1 book, 17 book chapters, and has 25 granted patents related to optical diagnosis and therapy. Several medical devices derived from these patents have passed regulatory approvals and are currently in clinical uses around the world. The latest device, Verisante Aura™ using Raman spectroscopy for non-invasive skin cancer detection, was awarded the Prism Award in the Life Sciences and Biophotonics category in February, 2013 by SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics.

Research Key Words: Biomedical Optics, Bionanophotonics, Optical Spectroscopy and Imaging, Phototherapy, Early Cancer Detection.

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