We know that advancing progress in ovarian cancer research is vital to driving our vision of women living fuller, better, longer lives.

We know this disease is not a “one-size-fits-all” cancer. It’s complex, with many subtypes. But we inch closer and closer toward a future when the disease can be successfully and sustainably identified, treated and managed and it starts with understanding more about ovarian cancer itself. This is why it’s so important we invest in researchers who are working to make that happen. One way we do this is through the Anita Unruh Prize.

Established in 2016 by Patrick McGrath, in honour of his late wife Anita Unruh, a former Associate Dean and Professor, the prize rewards excellence in ovarian cancer research by a trainee and aims to encourage promising young scientists to establish careers in the ovarian cancer field. Offered biennially, this is a peer-reviewed prize for a published paper that both focuses on ovarian cancer and has a trainee as sole first author. Recipients are awarded with $5,000 and registration and travel for the Canadian Conference on Ovarian Cancer Research*. Applications are judged based on three criteria, including scientific excellence, potential impact on patient care and innovation.

This year, Ovarian Cancer Canada is pleased to announce the recipient of the second Anita Unruh Prize: Allen Zhang. Mr. Zhang is a 7th year MD/PhD and Bioinformatics student at the University of British Columbia (UBC); he has been recognized for his primary research paper, “Interfaces of Malignant and Immunologic Clonal Dynamics in Ovarian Cancer,” published in Cell in June 2018.

Allen Zhang, 2020 Recipient of the Anita Unruh Prize

Under the mentorship of Dr. Sohrab Shah and Dr. Wyeth Wasserman, Allen pursues his research interests in ovarian cancer genomics, cancer evolution, and the tumour microenvironment. To summarize his work, Allen explained: “We collected data from over 200 tumours from 38 patients with ovarian cancer, looking not only at the cancer cells themselves but also the immune cells within tumours. While immune cells can help fight tumours, we found that some cancer cells had developed ways to ‘escape’ immune recognition. Understanding how this happens may be key to improving outcomes for patients with this deadly disease.”

“I know how difficult research is and on behalf of Anita Unruh, I commend Mr. Zhang for his work. Anita believed that research was hope. Thank you again for committing so much to helping overcome ovarian cancer,” said Mr. McGrath. Anita Unruh died in 2017 so she did not live to see the prize offered in her name. Today, we’re happy and privileged to honour her life and memory through this important work.

Congratulations, Allen, on your important and impactful work! We look forward to your future contributions to the ovarian cancer research field!