Top cancer researcher in BC invests in TWU students

Langley, British Columbia—When he’s not playing tennis or spending time with his children, Victor Ling likes to do research—the kind that saves lives. Dr. Ling, one of BC’s top cancer researchers and one of Canada’s top scientists, has already been honoured with numerous prestigious awards for his work. His most recent awards include the Gairdner Foundation International Award, National Cancer Institute of Canada/Robert L. Noble Prize and Order of British Columbia. He was also the first Canadian to win the General Motors Kettering Prize in 1991. While few would expect a researcher of his renown to make time in his busy schedule to chat with students, Ling did just that in a visit to Trinity Western University on January 29.

“It’s a tremendous honour to have a researcher of Dr. Ling’s calibre come to Trinity Western,” says Eve Stringham, PhD, assistant professor of biology at TWU and adjunct professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at SFU, who helped arrange the itinerary for Ling’s visit.

A humble man, who would rather chat about his children than mention his achievements, Ling visited TWU’s campus as a part of the University’s Leader in Residence Program. In its eleventh year of operation, the program is intended to enhance students’ academic training by giving them a chance to interact with outstanding Christian leaders in various fields of study.

“Dr. Ling is an incredible role model,” says Stringham, whose own research has implications for cancer and is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. “He is the type of role model who helps people reach their God-given potential and whose faith influences his ethical approach to research, providing a great example for our students here.”

As vice-president of research at the BC Cancer Research Centre, Ling currently oversees approximately 40 senior scientists and 250 staff. The B.C. Cancer Research Centre is the research arm of the B.C. Cancer Agency, which treats and manages all cancer patients in the province of B.C.

Carla Morden, who graduated from TWU in 1996, recently worked with Ling at his lab. “I was really encouraged to have Carla as a part of my team,” says Ling. “Her contributions spoke well of Trinity Western’s undergraduate training in this field.”

Both a friend and colleague of the late Dr. Michael Smith, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993 and helped to found the Genome Sequence Centre before passing away from cancer in 2001, Ling is currently co-director of the Centre for Integrated Genomics and co-director of the Genome Sequence Centre at the BC Cancer Agency.

“Dr. Ling and his lab have been instrumental in determining characteristics of genes and proteins that are responsible for a patient’s body becoming resistant to several drugs, something that has been problematic in cancer therapy,” says Stringham.

During his day on campus, Ling made presentations in biology and science classes, spoke in TWU’s chapel service and met with senior level students who are interested in cancer research and science.

“I think Dr. Ling gave students a sense that they can do something like this too,” says Stringham. “There’s a lot of hard work and ingenuity involved, but he inspired students to make a contribution in science, and to recognize that it’s important for them to do so.”

For the past 15 years, Stringham has been making her own contributions to science. Her research caught the attention of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada three years ago, and NSERC awarded Stringham a $100,800 grant to continue her work. The grant has allowed Stringham to bring SFU graduate student Adetayo Adeleye, who earned his undergraduate degree at TWU, to help her conduct research on cell migration.

“When we understand how cells work in normal development, we can use that knowledge to understand what happens when cell development goes wrong, like in the case of cancer or a variety of other diseases,” says Stringham. “If we find cells that are over-migrating, we can look for a drug that will interfere with the cells and block them from spreading.”

While she already teaches molecular genetics, biochemistry, biosynthesis, developmental biology and cell biology at TWU, Stringham will also teach TWU’s new cancer biology class, which is offered for the second time at TWU this semester.

“We open every class by praying for someone who has cancer,” she says. “I think it enhances and motivates students to study all the more.”

Ling’s visit to TWU was also a highlight for Stringham, who notes, “I admire Dr. Ling because instead of resting on the laurels of past achievements, he continues to be a vigorous researcher, providing new insights into cancer and mechanisms of membrane transport,” adding, “This is the mark of a true scientist.”

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,000 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2007-09-26