Honouring Cancer Research Excellence

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The American Association for Cancer Research honours three UHN scientists.

Three researchers at UHN’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM), Drs. Fei-Fei Liu, Daniel De Carvalho and John Dick, have been recognized with prestigious honours from the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), the largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research.

“Drs. Fei-Fei Liu, De Carvalho and Dick have made outstanding contributions to our understanding of cancer initiation and progression. Their insights are changing the treatment landscape for patients,” says Dr. Brad Wouters, UHN’s Executive Vice-President of Science and Research. “These awards and honours recognize the international calibre of these scientists and the impact that they and their research teams are having on the lives of patients.”

Dr. Fei-Fei Liu Chair-Elect of the AACR Radiation Science Medicine (AACR-RSM) Working Group

Dr. Fei-Fei Liu has been named Chair-Elect of the AACR Radiation Science Medicine (AACR-RSM) Working Group. Dr. Liu will work with the AACR to guide the direction of radiation research for 2022-2023.

Dr. Liu is a Senior Scientist at PM, Chief of the Radiation Medicine Program at UHN, and Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Toronto. She has made many notable contributions to the field of radiation oncology through various roles in research, education and patient care, where her expertise is highly sought after.

“I’m honored to serve as the Chair of the AACR Radiation Science Medicine Working Group.” said Dr. Liu “It is a great privilege, and I'm excited to contribute to advancing the organization's overarching goal to prevent and cure cancer with a focus on advancing the field of radiation oncology. It's inspiring to join a network of dedicated experts who share a strong drive to promote research, collaboration and education. These efforts are vital to paving the way for new therapies, fostering future leaders in radiation medicine research, and ultimately improving health the lives of patients and their families."

Dr. Daniel De Carvalho, AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Translational and Clinical Cancer Research

Dr. Daniel De Carvalho has been awarded the AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Translational and Clinical Cancer Research. The award honours Dr. De Carvalho’s research into developing a highly sensitive and accurate blood test for cancer detection and characterization. It also recognizes his discovery of ‘viral mimicry’—a process that can be used to wake up the immune system so that it targets cancer cells. The process involves activating the production of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) in cancer cells. The dsRNA molecule is typically found in viruses and is a ‘red flag’ that notifies the immune system of an infection. By producing dsRNA in cancer cells, the process mimics an infection and instructs the body to initiate an anticancer immune response.

The award was established to celebrate the achievements of the late Dr. Waun Ki Hong, whose research advanced the field of targeted cancer therapy. It recognizes early- and mid-career scientists for their extraordinary contributions to cancer research. 

"I am extraordinarily honored to receive the 2022 AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award, acknowledging the significance of my research to the fields of cancer early detection and therapeutic development," said Dr. De Carvalho. "Blood-based detection of cancer in early stages when treatment can be more effective could have a profound impact on patient outcomes. Tricking cancer cells to behave as a virus-infected cell, a process we described as viral mimicry, has the potential to unleash a strong immune response against the tumor."

Dr. De Carvalho is a Senior Scientist at PM, an Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, and scientific co-founder of Adela. His pioneering research, which mixes epigenetic analyses and machine learning, has led to earlier detection of cancer and opened new avenues for cancer therapies.

Dr. John Dick, AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Blood Cancer Research.

Dr. John Dick is the inaugural recipient of the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Blood Cancer Research. The award honours Dr. Dick’s discovery of leukemia stem cells, as well as his work on characterizing the mechanisms by which these cells contribute to normal and leukemic hematopoiesis. Dr. Dick is also recognized for developing the first hematopoietic xenograft assay—an experimental technique for generating distinct classes of blood cells from stem cells. This technique has allowed his team to develop models of human acute lymphoid leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia that have provided important insights into these diseases.

Dr. Dick is a Senior Scientist at PM, a Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology. His discoveries have provided actionable targets for drug development, improved approaches to preventing cancer relapse and led to the development of tools to predict cancer survival and treatment outcomes.  

“I am incredibly honored to receive the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Blood Cancer Research,” said Dr. Dick. “Science is not done in isolation and I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by wonderful colleagues in Toronto who continuously challenged me to tackle biological challenges with rigour and clear thinking. I dedicate this award to them and all the students and post-docs who contributed so much to the thinking and execution of the experimental findings.”

(L-R) Drs. Fei-Fei Liu, Daniel De Carvalho and John Dick. (Photo of Dr. Dick courtesy of Images by Delmar)