Dr. Lucy Gilbert has been named to the Top Women of Influence for 2021 on the strength of her ground-breaking work on early detection of ovarian and endometrial cancers that could save the lives of countless women.
The Top Women of Influence list is a celebration of Canada’s most accomplished women. Director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the Women’s Health Research Unit at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), Dr. Gilbert has developed a test to detect ovarian and endometrial cancers early (DOvEE).
“The annual Top 25 Women of Influence awards recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of Canada’s self-identified women and gender-diverse role models,” says the Women of Influence website. “The recipients have all left their mark over the past year: contributing to the greater good through their initiatives; using their influence to drive positive change; or reaching inspiring heights on a global stage.”
“When I began my career in medicine, there were very few women, especially in surgery,” says Dr. Gilbert. “I was inspired by those few women who had broken that glass ceiling. I hope I can do the same for young women today, especially visible minorities. I want women to know that you can have a family and an impactful career. The key is believing in yourself and following your passions.”
Ovarian and endometrial cancers are known as “the silent killers” because they present no symptoms until they have spread to other parts of the body. By the time the cancer is detected, it is difficult to treat and, as a result, many women die.
“Dissatisfied with the sad reality that the cure rate of ovarian and endometrial cancers have not improved in the last 30 years, Dr. Gilbert and her team worked relentlessly to design a genomic uterine pap test that uses AI to analyze cells – creating the only test capable of making the distinction between cancer and non-cancer cells in pre- and post-menopausal women,” says the Women of Influence citation. “The DOvEEgene has the potential to detect the third highest cancer-killer of Canadian women before it’s too late.”
Dr. Gilbert was awarded the Quebec Science 2018 Discovery of the Year for the DOvEEgene test. Last May, Dr. Gilbert received a Genomics Applications Partnership Program funding grant worth $6.24 million to finalize the development of the test. As well, the MUHC Foundation is raising $2 million to support Dr. Gilbert’s research and the DOvEE clinical trials through its Dream Big campaign.
Dr. Gilbert’s goal is to make the DOvEEgene test a routine part of women’s health. Clinical trials for DOvEEgene are set to begin in May 2021.
“It’s a great honour to be recognized among the top 25 Canadian Women of Influence, as it means that the goal I have pursued for much of my career – to find an early detection test for ovarian and endometrial cancer – is important to Canadians at large,” says Dr. Gilbert. “This recognition strengthens my resolve to get this test to the public without delay.”