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  • Azbah Wasim and Ruoshui (Grace) Zhang

World Cancer Day: Powerful Female Figures

February 4th marks World Cancer Day this year. This blog post highlights two female figures who have contributed significantly to the fields of Cancer research and Cancer treatments. Read on to learn more about Dr. Audrey Evans and Dr. Aisha Lofters and their contributions to the field of Cancer Research.

Dr. Audrey Evans

Dr. Audrey Evans (1925-2022) was a British-born American pediatric oncologist who was known as the "Mother of Neuroblastoma". She co-founded Ronald McDonald House Charities to develop, locate, and support initiatives that directly enhance children's health and well-being. She is famous for her contribution to the field of neuroblastoma.

Dr. Andrey Evans was born on 6 March 1925 in York, England as the youngest of a middle-class family. She attended a Quaker school and then went to a boarding school in Bristol, England.  She returned home and enrolled in York, England's The Mount School after the start of World War II. 

Early in the 1950s, Evans received his training at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. In the medical school, she was the only female student. She had a difficult first year of medical school and ultimately failed. She believes her lack of success in having learnt via hearing rather than reading. She sought and was granted the Boston Children's Hospital Fulbright Fellowship in 1953, following her graduation. There, she received two years of training under Sidney Farber, the man credited with founding modern chemotherapy. In 1955, she enrolled at Johns Hopkins University to complete her medical education.

Soon she returned to England to practice specialty pediatrics, but she realized this male-dominated area was not fit for women. Therefore, she headed back to the United States to continue her career in pediatric oncology. In 1964, she worked in the hematology and oncology unit of the University of Chicago. There, she was recruited by the former U.S. Surgeon General and Surgeon Chief at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia - C. Everett Coop, to create a pediatric oncology unit. 

Evans spent the rest of her career life working at CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). She chaired the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Division of Oncology from 1969 to 1989. In 1971, she created the Evans staging system for Neuroblastoma. In 1972, she was named a pediatrics professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Evans is best known for her work in neuroblastoma. She effectively lowers the death rate of neuroblastoma in children by around 50% after treating the disease for years. Additionally, she organized and presided over the inaugural Advances in Neuroblastoma Research symposia. The purpose of the conference is to foster information sharing among researchers looking into the biology, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of neuroblastoma. Evans is also famous for her style of treatment, as she did not just focus on her patients' physical needs but also their social, emotional, and spiritual needs as well as supporting the families.

Her works are recognized through many awards that she received, such as:

  • 1976 - The Janeway Award from the American Radium Society.

  • 1995 - Distinguished Career Award from the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

  • 1997 - William Osler Patient Oriented Research Award from the University of Pennsylvania.

  • 2000 - Lifetime Achievement Award from the Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Association.

Although Dr. Andrey Evans passed away, her impact and heritage remain with us, helping children to discover their future through her research and works. 

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Dr. Aisha Lofters

Dr. Aisha Lofters is a Canadian physician and researcher recognized as a leader in health equity research. Dr. Lofters, develops, tests, and evaluates patient-centered cancer care, which can be incorporated into healthcare systems in the future. She researched in the field of health equity, and is currently working on advancing research focused on cancer screening, and immigrant health.

She holds a PhD in clinical epidemiology from the University of Toronto and received her MD from the University of Maryland in 2004, finished her doctorate at U of T in 2012, and currently practices as a family physician at St. Michael's Hospital. She had no interest in studying family medicine until she did her family medicine rotation in medical school. For her, it was the fact that it didn’t just deal with one part of the body, but the entire body, which is what she loves about what she does. In addition to her love of mathematics, statistics, and writing, she wanted to go into researching.

She conducts research to understand and assess inequalities in cancer care experienced by marginalized groups in order to improve health outcomes, and works with the marginalized populations, ensuring diversity in perspectives. She also researches in health equity, cancer screening, cancer prevention, immigrant health, social determinants of health, primary care/clinical practice, cancer, and women’s health.

Currently, Dr. Aisha Lofters is the Chair in Implementation Science at Women's College Hospital, working as a family physician. She has contributed towards cancer studies to find sustainable and meaningful methods to provide people with information about cancer screening and prevention, and ways to access them. During her research, she learned that screening and prevention are the primary care to fight cancer. As there is a reduction in the morbidity and mortality of cancer, but accessing these in healthcare is not equitable in Canada. She works at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women's Cancers to develop research programs focused on increasing screening and prevention interventions.

For her work, she had been awarded 

  • Canadian Cancer Society Inclusive Excellence Prize

  • 2019 Women Purpose Award

  • CIHR Catalyst Grant

Dr. Aisha Lofters, has done a lot, and is still doing a lot for the study of cancer. She has big hopes for her research in the future to help individuals fight cancer. 

More information can be found below:

This World Cancer Day Peel GEMs hope to raise awarness about Cancer and to inspire individuals to continue to stand alongside those affected by Cancer. Cancer research and treatment is an ongoing process, and on behalf of Peel GEMs we would like to thank all the brilliant minds who are making such possible. "Today, on World Cancer Day, let us commit to reducing our cancer risk and helping our loved ones do the same so we can look forward to a healthier, brighter future, no matter where we live."

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