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REF NO.: 288

SUBJECT: Terry Fox name lives on at MemorialUniversity
DATE: April 11, 2005

The legacy of Terry Fox lives on at Memorial University’s Terry Fox Cancer Research Laboratories, officially opened in 1989 with Terry’s mother, Betty Fox, in attendance. The research unit was a joint initiative of the Terry Fox Regional Development Fund and the Faculty of Medicine and it has grown to 4,500 square foot open space laboratories on the third floor of the Health Sciences Centre, with four full-time faculty members who collaborate with other researchers in the Cancer Research Group, one of the largest research groups in the Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Jon Church was the first faculty member appointed to the Terry Fox labs, soon joined by Drs. Laura Gillespie and Gary Paterno. Dr. Ken Kao later became the fourth appointment. All four researchers pursue fundamental cell and molecular biological questions, but Dr. Church has also been instrumental in developing support and information resources for men and women living with breast cancer, as well as their friends and families, caregivers and researchers. In 2002, he received a Leadership Award For Women's Health in Atlantic Canada in recognition of the work he has done in helping women cope with breast cancer.

The basic research that goes on in the Terry Fox Cancer Research Laboratories lays the foundation for further developments towards controlling cancer. For example, Drs. Gillespie and Paterno have identified a gene which kills cancer cells when it is deactivated and this discovery could lead to the development of a drug to control the gene and in turn control certain types of cancer. Dr. Kao, in collaboration with Dr. Cathy Popadiuk, a gynecologic oncologist from the Division of Women’s Health, is working on a novel molecular-based treatment for ovarian cancer. The research in the Terry Fox labs is moving closer to treatment reality, with both studies undergoing the commercialization phase with Genesis Group, Memorial’s technology transfer corporation.

The influence of the Terry Fox Cancer Research Laboratories has permeated the research interests and infrastructure of Memorial University. The Cancer Research Group, of which the Terry Fox people are the core founding members, has grown to include scientists from the Divisions of Basic Medical Sciences and Community Health and colleagues from the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation and the Health Care Corporation of St. John's/Janeway Child Health Centre. The group was instrumental in establishing a specific pathogen-free barrier facility to accommodate the more exacting requirements of genome based research which represents a vital new opportunity for the study of human disease. In addition they have been successful in major equipment grants providing infrastructure for the Confocal Digital Imagery Centre. In 2004 a new initiative, centered on establishing a proteomics facility, was supported by two Canada Foundation for Innovation grants for the acquisition of equipment in support of research on cellular signaling mechanisms in growth, development and disease, including a QStar tandem mass spectrometer for the analysis of molecular structures and interactions that will profoundly enhance the university’s research capabilities.

The research of the faculty members in the Terry Fox Cancer Research Laboratories has generated employment for about 20 research assistants over the years, with three usually working in the lab at any one time. And the four researchers have had a profound impact on the numerous undergraduate and graduate students who have studied with them. From the local to the international level, these students have excelled. For example, Dr. Blue Lake, whose work was supervised by Dr. Kao, was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal at spring convocation 2004 and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Dr. Jeff Ding, who was supervised by Drs. Gillespie and Paterno, is now at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard University, and has just won the prestigious Damon Runyon Cancer Research Fellowship to support his work. And Dr. Nagendra Prasad, supervised by Dr. Church, earned his PhD from Memorial in 1994 and is currently on faculty at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he pursues cancer research.

It is with the help of donations and tax dollars from the public that the Terry Fox Cancer Research Laboratories was established and has grown. For example, the development grant that started the Terry Fox labs came from the National Cancer Institute of Canada, which receives its funding from the Canadian Cancer Society. And researchers within the lab have been successful over the years in obtaining ongoing research funding from numerous agencies, in particular the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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