Hal Hirte

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For inspiration on what career to choose, Dr. Hal Hirte didn’t have to look any further than across the dinner table. “My father was an oncologist and I respected what he did,” says Dr. Hirte. “I thought this was something I would like to devote my life to as well.” At university, the young Dr. Hirte enjoyed research and medicine, but he especially liked the wide range of opportunities offered by the study and practice of oncology. After completing training programs and research in Ottawa, Toronto and Maryland, Dr. Hirte joined the staff at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in 1987. He is now a national leader in the study of novel, anti-cancer drugs. Ovarian cancer has become his focus, in part because, even in the most advanced cases, it is contained within the abdominal cavity. The fluid in that cavity provides clues to what is happening in the tumour environment, and could provide valuable information about what drives tumour growth and why the patient’s immune system isn’t rejecting the tumor. Once these phenomena are better understood, doctors will be more successful in applying targeted approaches to inhibit processes such as angiogenesis to stop the blood supply to tumors and inhibit pathways crucial to the growth and progression of these cancers.  Ovarian cancer is particularly challenging because so many patients have relapses and die. Dr. Hirte is hopeful that, by bringing molecular scientists and clinical scientists together at the Escarpment Cancer Research Institute, great advances in the fight against all cancers will result.