London Health Sciences Centre

LHSF to Open Pancreatic Cancer Centre with Donation

Greg Bowman

London is one of the healthcare hubs of Ontario, which makes it fitting that they will lead the charge against one of the fastest-growing and most deadly cancers.

Rick and Shelley Baker are using their personal experience with pancreatic cancer as motivation towards their donation of $1.5 million to the London Health Sciences Foundation. They will open the Baker Centre for Pancreatic Cancer at the London Health Sciences Centre, they announced earlier this week.

“It is with the help of inspirational donors like Rick and Shelley Baker that a change in medical care for pancreatic cancer patients is possible now and into the future,” said John MacFarlane, President and CEO at LHSF in a press release. “This gift will not only impact the lives of pancreatic cancer patients in our community, but in communities around the world.”

For Rick Baker, his experience with the deadly disease had him go great distances: “I was diagnosed with stage four pancreas cancer, and I had to travel around the world to get treatment,” said Baker in an interview with Radio Western. The only two options for treatment of his cancer in the Forest City were both rigorous methods of chemotherapy. 

He continued: “One of the things my wife and I started to talk about when we were travelling the world and doing our different research and being treated in other hospitals was: ‘boy, some of this stuff is not rocket science, it’s being done at the London Health Sciences Centre in other cancers.’” 

Pancreatic cancer is a fast-growing cancer with a very low survival rate. In 2017, roughly 5,500 Canadians were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, with around 4,800 Canadians dying from the disease. Furthermore, it is often diagnosed much later in its development at stage four, while other cancers can usually be detected at its earlier stages. 

The disease has even made its way into pop culture, with Canadian Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek, announcing his diagnosis of stage four pancreatic cancer in March. He has since announced that his cancer was “near remission” as of the end of May. 

Rick Baker’s diagnosis came from some standard trips to the doctor: “I had a few digestive issues, take a few tests, take a few weeks to get, then takes a few weeks to get the results. After three or four months, finally the doctor said ‘there might be a little inflammation’...that’s a lot of times the case with pancreas cancer. It sneaks up on you, it’s very aggressive and then it’s too late. It’s gone to your liver, your lungs,” he explained. 

The Baker Centre for Pancreatic Cancer will be one of the first centres of its kind, servicing a large portion of Southwestern Ontario in hopes of saving lives that may not have had the resources or time that Baker had. The donation will help fund the purchasing of equipment, data collection resources, genomic sequencing for new patients, and the establishment of a research fund to further study the disease. 

“[My wife and I] have accepted our responsibility, I suppose and say ‘hey look, I can help, and we’d like to help.’ Having our name associated with something I think can help because we know a lot of people and I’ve been treated in a lot of locations and can help a little traction for the Centre for sure. For us, it’s just something we can do. We’ve seen it work before when clinical research gets offered to patients with pancreas cancer so we’re very excited that some people are going to benefit,” Baker said, who was on hand with Shelley for the announcement at the London Health Sciences Centre on Wednesday.

Rick and Shelley Baker went through a stressful time that they were able to turn into a benefit for others. With their generous donation partnered with other philanthropic work by the London Health Sciences Foundation, the Bakers will undoubtedly save the lives of many in Southwestern Ontario.