The following is the second of a three-part series on the world-class researchers at the BC Cancer Agency in Abbotsford.
The BC Cancer Agency’s Abbotsford centre houses clinicians and researchers who have travelled around the world in their studies and are now honing their skills and serving patients right here in the Fraser Valley.
Dr. Muhammad Zulfiqar shares his experiences and how the generosity of donors is helping fuel the latest in cancer research.
What is your role at the BC Cancer Agency?
At BC Cancer Agency, I serve as medical oncologist working in a multidisciplinary team to help cancer patients in the specialized field of gastrointestinal, genitourinary and central nervous system neoplasms. I am also a medical director of clinical trials unit at the Abbotsford centre and am a member of the Provincial Clinical Trial Advisory Committee.
Your journey to a career in cancer research spanned many places, from Kansas to Newfoundland. What initially got you interested in studying oncology?
During medical school, one of our class fellows passed away from a germ cell tumour, and witnessing what he and his family went through sparked my curiosity in the field. Further, when I met cancer patients, they made me realize what living every moment to its fullest meant. The scope of further development and research in the field was enormous, and I decided to pursue a career in serving this group of patients. Research and progress to newer treatments was the integral component of care.
What updates to research can you share with us?
Several developments have not only made patients’ quality of life better, but also improved survival as well. Germ cell tumours which used to have a high mortality rate are mostly curable now. Previously there were few treatment options for prostate cancer, and now there are several with few side effects and significant benefit. Metastatic colorectal cancer survival has improved from six months to three and a half years now. These are only a few of the numerous examples of ongoing progress.
How does the community support your research?
It is vital to discover new treatments and improve the existing ones. Progress in different fields of medicine is a direct and indirect result of philanthropy. In fact, our own clinical trials unit at the Abbotsford Centre was a result of a generous gift from BC Cancer Foundation donors: the George and Margaret Braun family.
What do you see in the near future of cancer research?
The era of more precise and personalized targeted treatment will emerge, with fewer side effects and the most effectiveness. These are the current directions of cancer research in several disease sites.