Community support helps U of A recruit a top cancer researcher

New research lead will focus on finding new treatments for women's cancers

Raquel Maurier - 26 September 2013

The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry has recruited a leading women's cancer researcher thanks to more than $5 million in funding from the Noujaim family, the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation. The recruitment is a big win for the city of Edmonton and could lead to advanced clinical care for women battling cancer.

Lynne Postovit, who arrived at the University of Alberta in early July, said she is excited to work at the Faculty because of its international reputation in research excellence and collaboration. With the new funding she becomes the Dr. Anthony Noujaim Legacy Oncology Chair and the Sawin-Baldwin Chair in Ovarian Cancer. Postovit was recruited from the University of Western Ontario and has won several national research awards.

"I think Alberta and the University of Alberta are growing rapidly in the areas of translational cancer research and discovery. The atmosphere is highly innovative, hopeful, and clinically or outcomes-oriented. For us, this means that Alberta and the university are uniquely poised to take the discoveries researchers are making in the lab and bring those to the patient. Through its support of scientists like me, and its promotion of collaborative research, the U of A is well equipped to produce this type of translational and visionary work."

The new endowed research chair will focus her work on breast and ovarian cancers. Through her ovarian cancer research she will look for better biomarkers for the disease and try to gain a better understanding of how advanced ovarian cancers resist treatment. To aid in the discovery process, a team of experts from disciplines such as surgery, pathology and biochemistry will be assembled. The core team will include Faculty members Helen Steed, Cheng-Han Lee and YangXin Fu.

"We want to know how ovarian cancer can continue to grow and spread even though the disease is being treated very aggressively," said Postovit. "If ovarian cancer is caught early, it is very easy to treat. But in most cases it isn't detectable until later stages when the cure rate is less than 50 per cent. This type of cancer needs more people looking at it, and more awareness.

"Our team is looking forward to doing great things - to making a real difference for patients. The research funding provided by the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, as well as the generous donors, will allow us to do truly transformative research, working towards the goal of decreasing the number of women who die every year of ovarian and breast cancers. Simply, this money will be used to make breakthroughs that will improve health and decrease suffering."

The funding partners believe in the work of Postovit's team and are confident the scientists will make research advances that will lead to improved care and treatment for women battling various cancers. About 175 women in Alberta are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and about half of them die within five years of diagnosis.

"We are privileged to invest our donors' dollars to attract the best and brightest minds to this province and make a real impact on things that matter to Albertans - earlier detection, better screening and improved cancer treatments," said Myka Osinchuk, CEO of the Alberta Cancer Foundation. "We are confident that this partnership with the University of Alberta will help accelerate discovery in breast and ovarian cancer and make a transformational impact on cancer research in Alberta."

"Throughout the Lois Hole Hospital for Women campaign, it was always our vision to establish research chairs who would lead a new and important movement on the women's health research front," said Andrew Otway, President & CEO of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.

"In 2012, we were proud to establish the Cavarzan Chair in Mature Women's Health Research, Dr. Sue Ross at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. We're thrilled to now welcome Dr. Postovit as the Sawin-Baldwin Chair in Ovarian Cancer. We're very grateful to the Sawin and Baldwin families for their lead gift and for the vision they have demonstrated. Community support continues to improve and enhance health care in our province, and we look forward to the impact Dr. Postovit's work will have." The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation also provides funding for women's health research through the Women and Children's Health Research Institute at the U of A.

"The Faculty is excited about the competitive recruitment of one of Canada's best young scientists to Alberta," said D. Douglas Miller, dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. "Dr. Postovit and her team will significantly impact our cancer research capabilities in Edmonton, and through collaborations, across the province."