Best of 2009: Health Sciences

Scott Lear’s banner year
SFU kinesiologist Scott Lear, one of Canada’s leading cardiovascular disease researchers, ended 2009 with an appointment as the first Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital, established in partnership with SFU. The $4.6-million endowed chair will allow Lear to move his internationally renowned research program into a patient-care setting where he’ll have daily interaction with clinicians and patients.

Using environmental toxins to suppress breast cancer
Health sciences researcher Tim Beischlag found that carcinogens such as dioxins and PCBs can actually help disrupt the growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer tumours. Beischlag was ecstatic that his research could generate treatments with fewer side effects than chemotherapy and radiation.

Early antiretroviral drug use boosts HIV survival
Health Sciences professor Robert Hogg was part of an international research team that found the risk of death from HIV-AIDS could drop by as much as 94 per cent if antiretroviral treatment was started earlier than under current guidelines. The study was published in April in the New England Journal of Medicine. Hogg is also director of the Drug Treatment Program at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Homeless project invokes family tragedy
Health sciences associate professor Julian Somers knows only too well about the potentially terrible fate awaiting a growing number of homeless Canadians who have a mental illness. His father died, homeless, of alcohol-related disease. The son became in 2009 became head of a $110-million five-city research initiative to combat the problem of homelessness linked to mental illnesses.

Partnering with Fraser Health to improve population health
SFU and the Fraser Health Authority established a strategic alliance in February to develop and integrate collaborative training, education and research programs. SFU has no medical school, but scores of faculty members and students in areas ranging from gerontology to molecular biology and biochemistry are involved in medical and health-related research.