Dr. Frances Shepherd

A 30-Year Legacy in Lung Cancer

Dr. Frances Shepherd has been a leading investigator in more than 100 clinical trials over the past three decades. Her studies have changed treatment and outcomes for lung cancer patients around the world.

During her 19-year tenure as Chair of the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group Lung Cancer Site, Dr. Shepherd developed and led the BR.10 trial. This groundbreaking clinical trial introduced adjuvant vinorelbine and cisplatin chemotherapy to patients who had already had their tumours completely removed.

With 482 patients, the trial demonstrated that the cost-effective treatment could improve the five-year survival rate by 15 per cent and in patients with Stage 2 cancers involving the lymph glands by 20 per cent. The results changed practice at a global level.

“This was absolutely huge. It was revolutionary,” says Dr. Shepherd. “No benefit of this magnitude had ever been seen previously in any of the other trials of post-operative chemotherapy.

“This is the trial that really convinced the world that adjuvant chemotherapy for lung cancer was worth it.”

It is just one of many incredible career achievements for Dr. Shepherd. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Order of Canada and, most recently, the 2018 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for global leadership in oncology.

Still, Dr. Shepherd admits she only recently began to appreciate the impact of her work.

“You are doing all the things you have to do every day, in addition to being a wife and a mother over the years. And you do not appreciate the steps that you are making, little by little, day by day. That comes as you are able to look back and you put it all together and you say, ‘Wow! We really have made some major steps forward and it has all been worth it at the end of the day.'”

Another significant step forward, and what Dr. Shepherd says will be the legacy she will leave behind, is the creation of two endowed fellowships and five endowed chairs. This will guarantee Princess Margaret Cancer Centre will be able to recruit and retain renowned medical researchers who will have reliable funding to conduct their groundbreaking lung cancer research.

Dr. Shepherd says philanthropy is critical because lung cancer receives less funding than most other cancers or diseases. She participated in fundraising initiatives early on and the endowed chairs are the result.

“We truly are grateful to our donors, who have been so generous in funding our lung cancer research,” says Dr. Shepherd. “We could not do it without them.”

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