BIRD DOGS

Becoming the best prostate cancer research centre in Canada.

Frank Sojonky was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992. In 2002, Frank moved from Vancouver, where prostate cancer research was well established, back to Alberta. When inquiring about prostate cancer research in Edmonton he soon established that clinical research was far  outpacing discovery research work in the laboratory. Recognizing that it is in the laboratory that fundamental changes are made, this is where Frank, with the support of his wife, Carla, decided to direct his skills and energy.

 Frank rescued German Shorthaired Pointers-bird dogs. These hunting dogs find game, flush it from its hiding places for the hunter, and then retrieve it. Frank adopted that concept to form the Bird Dogs. A dedicated group of volunteers find prospective donors, the pitch for prostate cancer research was made, and a third group closes the deal. In the first five years, through the Bird Dog approach, $5 million was raised for an endowed chair at the University of Alberta, as well as $3 million to support research.

 The Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair in Prostate Cancer Research recruited Dr. John Lewis, who brought his entire team to Edmonton. Dr. Lewis and his research team. Subsequent to the move, the team developed ClarityDX Prostate, a blood test designed to accurately diagnose aggressive prostate cancer. ClarityDX Prostate will give clinicians and patients another tool to help them decide to whether or not to perform a biopsy (which is quite an invasive procedure). When the test becomes commercially available it is expected to reduce the number of prostate biopsies by 50% per cent. This is being developed by a Nanostics, a U of A bio-tech spin-off company, established by Dr. Lewis’ group.

 In 2018, BioAlberta honored Dr. Lewis and his team with its Scientific and Innovation Award.

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