Did you know that one in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime? Dr. Shashi Gujar, an immunologist, scientist, professor at Dalhousie University, and award-winning cancer researcher, is on a mission to develop innovative ways to target cancer cells using immunotherapy.
The statistics are clear. Cancer impacts millions of patients—and their families—around the world and right here in the Maritimes every year. The Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) is honoured to support early career scientists, like Dr. Gujar, through funding, community engagement, and leadership opportunities, so they can continue to build their careers and conduct life-changing research.
DMRF’s relationship with Dr. Gujar began when he was recruited to Dalhousie as a post-doctoral fellow by his mentor and the former DMRF Cameron Chair in Basic Cancer Research, Dr. Patrick Lee. Following the completion of his training, DMRF then supported Dr. Gujar’s recruitment as a DMRF Cameron Scientist—when he started his own laboratory at Dalhousie— and there was a connection there from the very beginning. He says, “DMRF is the bridge between what we do in the lab and the community. DMRF has been a strong supporter of our research whether it’s through funding or engagement with patients, donors, and community members—through you, we get to see the emotions on real people’s faces when they learn about our research, and that is what inspires us to work harder.”
Dr. Gujar is at the forefront of finding treatments that will help improve our body’s immune response to cancer cells. Our immune system is our first and last line of defense. It protects us from millions of dangerous elements every day, but one reason that cancer is so pervasive is that our immune system fails to differentiate cancer cells from our normal cells. Dr. Gujar and his team at Dalhousie University are using specific cancer killing viruses to train our immune systems to identify and fight cancer cells, both while you’re diagnosed with cancer, and to create a kind of ‘vaccination effect’ in your body to mitigate cancer from metastasizing, or spreading, and relapsing in the future.
He and his collaborators are also developing chemotherapy drugs that are only activated by certain wavelengths of light, thus allowing for targeting of cancerous areas without affecting normal cells and avoiding many unpleasant, uncomfortable, and negative side-effects associated with traditional chemotherapies. Most importantly, these new light-activable drugs work with the immune system and induce protective antitumor immunity.
The Canadian Cancer Society has recently awarded Dr. Shashi Gujar with their Emerging Scholar Award for continuing his incredible work and DMRF is beyond proud to have supported Dr. Gujar’s cancer research since he joined Dalhousie as a post-doctoral fellow more than 12 years ago. Now DMRF donors are supporting Dr. Gujar’s newest international initiative the Frontiers in Cancer Immunotherapy Initiative in India, which aims to promote faster testing and affordable access to cancer immunotherapies. The DMRF team is incredibly proud to work with Dr. Gujar to fund his ground-breaking studies in cancer research.
Over the years, Dr. Gujar has made incredible strides in cancer research, right here in the Maritimes. “I’m grateful for DMRF because they create opportunities for us to connect with cancer patients and their loved ones, and with everyone else that cares about the fight against cancer. This creates the feeling that we are fighting this together. I’m driven to do research that means something.”
DMRF is thrilled to work with Dr. Gujar and we’re grateful for his passion and dedication for preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer. We are proud to support his incredible work.
Dr. Gujar is part of newly formed international cohort of 40 promising ‘next generation of cancer immunologists’ that was created through inaugural Arthur and Sandra Irving Cancer Immunology Symposium, hosted via the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, where participants connected and developed strong ties with senior faculty mentors, such as Noble laureate Dr. Jim Allison, and learned about the different paths to success in cancer immunology and immunotherapy research. This transformational ‘coming together’ of promising young scientists has created a new alliance in our fight against cancers. DMRF wishes Dr. Gujar and his peers within this cohort all the best in their pursuit of discovering new ways to train our immune system against cancers.