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Research Group Leaders

Blake Gilks, MD, FRCPC 

Co-Founder OVCARE | Professor Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine University of British Columbia

Dr. Gilks is Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia and Head of Anatomic Pathology, Vancouver General Hospital, the site of the largest surgical oncology program in the province; and a member of Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.  Dr. Gilks leads a dynamic research program focused on gynecological cancers. In addition, he is also a Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Genetic Pathology Evaluation Centre (GPEC), a collaborative research venture of the Pathology Department, and the Prostate Research Centre at Vancouver Hospital and the BC Cancer Agency, which utilizes tissue microarray technology to uncover novel cancer biomarkers.

David G. Huntsman, MD, FRCPC, FCCMG

Co-Founder and Director OVCARE | Professor Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine University of British Columbia

Dr. David Huntsman is a Professor in the Departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynaecology at The University of British Columbia and is the Dr. Chew Wei Memorial Professor of Gynaecologic Oncology.  He is a Staff Pathologist at the BC Cancer Agency , and a Consulting Pathologist at the Vancouver General Hospital.   

Dr. Huntsman attended medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland from 1984-88 and after completing a rotating internship, practiced family medicine in Labrador for two years.  Following his experience in family medicine, he entered and completed a pathology residency and trained in clinical molecular genetics at UBC and subsequently studied cancer genetics at Cambridge University, UK.  

Dr. Huntsman is currently the Director of OVCARE, Medical Director of the Centre for Translational and Applied Genomics (CTAG) at the BCCA, and co-Director of the Genetic Pathology Evaluation Centre (GPEC) at the Jack Bell Research Centre, VGH.  His research has led to development of predictive and prognostic tissue-based cancer biomarkers for ovarian cancer and a wide variety of other tumour types.  His team created a blueprint for histotype specific ovarian cancer control and have been leaders in the application of novel genomics technologies to ovarian cancer.  Recently, his team applied next generation sequencing technologies to ovarian cancers and discovered key mutations in granulosa cell tumours, clear cell and endometrioid carcinomas and sertoli-leydig cell tumours of the ovary.  His team is working to determine the biologic and clinical relevance of these discoveries with a view to developing new treatment opportunities.  As collaboration is critical in this field, Dr. Huntsman happily leads and engages in a wide number of multidisciplinary research groups.  Most recently, he has been working with Professor Pieter Cullis on the creation of a broad-based personalized medicine initiative for British Columbia.

Dr. Huntsman has recently been awarded the inaugural Virginia Greene leadership award for ovarian cancer research and advocacy (Sept 2011), Killam Research Prize UBC Faculty of Medicine (2012) and the Karen Campbell National Award for Excellence in Ovarian Cancer Research (Feb 2012).

Jessica McAlpine, MD, FRCPC

OVCARE Gynaecologic Tissue Bank Director and Researcher | Assistant Professor Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology University of British Columbia

Dr. McAlpine is Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Vancouver General Hospital and the BC Cancer Agency.  She is a recipient of the VCH Research Institute clinician-scientist award (2008-2012) and the CIHR New Investigator award (2012-2017) dividing her time in both a surgical/clinical role and in translational research. Her research focuses on specific subtypes of ovarian and high-risk endometrial cancers with projects pertaining to genomics in high-grade serous ovarian cancers, mucinous ovarian tumors, BRCA abnormalities, targeted therapies, survivorship, and ovarian cancer prevention strategies. In 2012 she was appointed Director of the OVCARE tumor bank (link). Drs. Jessica McAlpine and Anna Tinker co-founded a web-based novel approach to addressing clinical and research questions in rare tumors [SMART=Shared Access Medicine: an Approach to Rare Tumors}.

Peter C.K. Leung, PhD, FCAHS, FRSC

OVCARE Researcher | Professor Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Associate Dean Faculty of Medicine University of British Columbia

Dr. Leung received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from the University of British Columbia, and a Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario.  Following postdoctoral training at the University of California at Los Angeles and Laval University, he returned to the University of British Columbia as faculty member.  At present, he is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, as well as Associate Dean in the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Leung has received numerous honours and awards, including MRC Scientist Award from the Medical Research Council of Canada, a Distinguished Scientist Award from the Child and Family Research Institute, a Distinguished Scholar Award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and a UBC Killam Research Prize.   He has served as President of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, and Institute Advisory Board member of the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health.  Presently, he is an Honorary Professor of the Institute of Zoology in the Chinese Academy of Science, Honorary Professor of the Zhejiang University, Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Nelly Auersperg, MD, PhD 

OVCARE Researcher | Professor Emerita Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology University of British Columbia

Dr. Auersperg is Professor Emerita in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of British Columbia. She obtained her MD in 1955 from the University of Washington and her PhD in Cell Biology from the University of British Columbia. Dr. Auersperg is a recipient of numerous awards including the UBC, Faculty of Medicine Lifetime Achievement Award. Among other contributions, she participated in the discovery of HPV as a cause of cervical cancer, and pioneered research into the role of ovarian surface epithelium as a source of ovarian carcinomas. Although formally retired, Dr. Auersperg continues to be a source of inspiration and guidance for ovarian cancer researchers. OVCARE is deeply indebted to her contributions and hosted a symposium in 2007 in her honour.

Sohrab Shah, PhD

OVCARE Bioinformatics Core Director and Researcher |  Assistant Professor Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Computer Science University of British Columbia

Dr. Sohrab Shah leads OVCARE's bioinformatics and computational biology team. He received his PhD in 2008 from the UBC computer science department under supervision of Drs. Raymond Ng and Kevin Murphy. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship with Drs. David Huntsman and Sam Aparicio at the BC Cancer Agency, Dr. Shah was appointed as Assistant Professor in the Depts of Pathology and Computer Science, at UBC and is a Scientist at the BC Cancer Agency. In 2011 he was awarded a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Career Investigator award. Dr. Shah's work focuses on characterization of cancer genomes for determination of pathogenic driver mutations in cancer subtypes and measuring and quantifying tumour evolution. He is a leader in the field of computational cancer genomics where his work centers around the development of statistical models and machine learning algorithms to interpret next generation sequence data for defining mutational landscapes and quantifying clonal evolution in ovarian and breast cancers. His recent work describing new cancer genes in ovarian cancer has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and his work describing mutational evolution in breast cancer has been featured in Nature.

Brad Nelson, PhD 

OVCARE Researcher | Distinguished Scientist & Director of BC Cancer Agency’s Deeley Research Centre, Associate Professor Department of Medical Genetics University of British Columbia

Dr. Nelson received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and completed postdoctoral training and held faculty positions at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington in Seattle. In July 2003, he became the founding Director of the BC Cancer Agency's Deeley Research Centre in Victoria BC. He is also an Associate Professor of Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry/Microbiology at the University of Victoria. Dr. Nelson’s lab studies the immune response to ovarian cancer. His team has shown that patients who mount immune responses against their tumors (as evidenced by T and B cell infiltrates) experience markedly higher survival rates. Dr. Nelson’s lab is currently deciphering the cellular and molecular mechanisms that promote tumor immunity. In collaboration with Dr. Robert Holt at the BCCA’s Genome Sciences Centre, they are developing personalized vaccines that target mutations found in ovarian cancer. Their goal is to develop a clinical trials program in which personalized vaccines will be given after standard treatments to prevent recurrence in ovarian cancer.

Julian J. Lum, PhD

OVCARE Researcher | Scientist BC Cancer Agency's Deeley Research Centre, Assistant Professor Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology University of Victoria

Dr. Julian J. Lum graduated with a PhD in Immunology from the University of Ottawa. He spent five years training at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of cancer biology with special emphasis on tumor metabolism. There he studied how cells adapt to nutrient stress and the role of autophagy in promoting cancer cell survival. In 2008, Dr. Lum returned to Canada and joined the Deeley Research Centre at the BC Cancer Agency, as a Scientist where his current research interest is in autophagy and metabolism of clear cell ovarian adenocarcinoma. He hopes the information gained from this work will enable a better understanding of how the tumor microenvironment influences the immune response to cancer.

Dr. Lum is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Victoria. He is also the recipient of a CIHR New Investigator Award. His work is funded by the BC Cancer Foundation, CIHR and Genome BC.

Calvin Roskelley, PhD

OVCARE Researcher | Professor Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences University of British Columbia







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