Partner profile: Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation

16 December 2013

Since 1962, the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation has been supporting charitable causes in Vancouver. From an initial mandate of promoting economic education and assisting those in need, the foundation has added to its objectives investigation and support of complementary and alternative medicine, particularly in the treatment of cancer.

As part of its support for health research, the foundation has partnered with MSFHR since 2007 to jointly fund three research trainees exploring projects related to cancer treatment. For MSFHR’s 2013 Research Trainee competition, the partnership funded BC Cancer Agency post-doctoral researcher Dr. Hamid Pahlevaninezhad, who is researching how imaging technologies can help manage lung cancer through earlier detection and treatment.

One such technology is autofluorescence imaging, an established clinical technique that uses blue light to illuminate natural tissue fluorescence in airways. This technique has proven to be very effective for early detection of cancer by identifying high-risk areas where biopsies should be collected.

However, the high sensitivity of this method comes at the cost of increased potential for false positives. Optical coherence tomography, the optical equivalent of ultrasound, helps differentiate cancer from other non-dangerous anomalies and greatly improves the efficacy of autofluorescence imaging.

Pahlevaninezhad is studying the use of these technologies in combination to provide better information about potential lung cancers that will help avoid unnecessary biopsies.

MSFHR and the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation previously partnered to fund research trainees Amy Kirkham and Jeffrey Mowat. Kirkham, a 2009 junior graduate trainee, was funded to study how the body changes with respect to exercise ability throughout chemotherapy treatment. Her research aims to optimize the prescription of exercise to counteract negative short-term side-effects of chemotherapy.

Mowat, a 2007 senior graduate trainee, spearheaded research on the development of a synthetic version of eleutherobin, a naturally occurring compound isolated from coral that has shown many promising anti-cancer properties. Synthesizing this compound and its analogues would improve its evaluation as a possible cancer treatment by overcoming barriers posed by a lack of material from the natural source.

Through Trainee and Scholar award partnerships, MSFHR is able to expand the scope of its work to build BC’s capacity for world-class research. Partnering with organizations such as the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation allows MSFHR to offer more awards that support the development of up-and-coming researchers and help our province recruit and retain top scientists.

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