Dr. Eduardo Franco, James McGill Professor and Chair of the Gerald Bronfman Department of Oncology at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine, has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Dr. Chew Wei Memorial Prize in Cancer Research, given by the University of British Columbia (UBC).

The prize is named for a Hong Kong physician who retired to Vancouver in 1988. An obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Chew grew determined to improve outcomes for people with cancer. After his death in 2009, his family and friends sought to honour his goals by donating $4.5 million to the Faculty of Medicine at UBC for a prize in cancer research and a professorship in gynecologic oncology. The $50,000 award makes the prize among the most lucrative honours given by a Canadian university.

Throughout his illustrious career Dr. Franco has illuminated the transmission of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and its role in causing cervical cancer. His work as a molecular epidemiologist paved the way for the ongoing transition from the 70-year-old Pap screening test to a more sensitive molecular assay for HPV infection, and for the widespread adoption of HPV vaccination. Those successes stemmed in part from Dr. Franco’s willingness to buck conventional wisdom about the cause of cervical cancer, which three decades ago held that Herpes virus simplex was the culprit. His tenacity in marshalling evidence to support his skepticism eventually managed to shift the mainstream view of the medical community, and led to the successful efforts to develop the vaccine. His studies of epidemiological methods for evaluating cancer screening strategies, of the impact of measurement error in epidemiology, and of societal and clinical influences on cancer patient survival have often been international in scope. His innovation in correcting for verification bias in studies of screening has become accepted practice, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now requires be done in all trials.

Dr. Franco has trained over 100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and almost 30 undergraduate trainees. He has given more than 650 presentations as either an invited speaker or session chair, has published over 450 scientific articles and 58 chapters, has edited two books on cancer epidemiology and prevention, and has co-edited 10 journal supplement issues. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Preventive Medicine and Founding Editor of Preventive Medicine Reports, and has served on the editorial boards of various journals, including Epidemiology, the International Journal of Cancer, and PLoS-Medicine. He served twice as an advisor to the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel and is an elected council member representing North American epidemiologists in the International Epidemiological Association.

“His commitment to integrity and openness in science has been a model for colleagues,” wrote Gina Ogilvie, a Professor in the School of Population and Public Health, in her nomination letter for Dr. Franco. “He has critiqued his own methods and findings, and has challenged colleagues to further explore his own results. As he has mentored his learners, he has modeled integrity and principled approaches to research and inquiry.”

Dr. Franco was selected for this prize by an international panel of experts and a UBC committee chaired by Robert McMaster, Executive Associate Dean, Research and Deborah Money, Executive Vice Dean.

Congratulations Dr. Franco!

(With files from the UBC Faculty of Medicine Communications Office)

August 31, 2017