Lakehead University and Health Research Institute team exploring new diagnostic drugs for cancer

October 2, 2020 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has provided a Lakehead University and Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute team with a $98,655 grant to develop new drugs that will help prevent, diagnose and manage cancer.

In Canada, cancer is the leading cause of death, which is why Dr. Jinqiang Hou, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Lakehead University and Research Chair at the Health Research Institute, believes an effective diagnostic method would improve the quality of life of many people while reducing health-care costs.

“Our research aims to design and prepare novel diagnostic imaging agents that could potentially improve prevention, early diagnosis and management of cancer.”

Dr. Hou is working with Dr. Michael Campbell, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Lakehead and a Research Chair at the Health Research Institute, and Dr. Justin Jiang, a Professor in Chemistry at Lakehead.

While a biopsy is the only way to diagnose most types of cancer with any level of certainty, biopsies are invasive. Dr. Hou and his team are exploring a non-invasive detection method known as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging.

“By developing an imaging agent that targets receptors on the surface of cells that are highly expressed in many cancers, our research has the potential to develop the next generation of accurate cancer diagnostics,” he said.

Dr. Hou thanked CFI for the grant, which will allow the team to purchase equipment that will significantly improve productivity and speed up the research progress.

“This generous funding from the CFI strengthens our patient-centred research program and supports our researchers to find solutions to regional health care challenges – solutions that often have global applications,” said Jean Bartkowiak, President and CEO of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and CEO of the Health Research Institute.

“The results of this research can potentially provide our patients with more personalized care and better outcomes,” he added.

Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation, also thanked CFI for the funding and said he is, once again, exceptionally proud of the research happening at Lakehead University and the Health Research Institute.  

“This research has the potential to improve the quality of care for many cancer patients  as well as reduce health-care costs,” he said.


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Media contacts:

Brandon Walker
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Lakehead University
Tel: (807) 343-8177



Marcello Bernardo
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Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre
Tel: (807) 684-6765


Lakehead University has approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff in 10 faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies. Maclean’s 2018 University Rankings place Lakehead University among Canada's Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities, as well as first in Total Research Dollars, second for Citations, and third for Scholarships and Bursaries. In 2017, Research Infosource named Lakehead Research University of the Year in its category for the third consecutive year. Visit


Healthy Together

Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute is the research arm of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, a 375-bed acute care facility, is a national leader in Patient and Family Centred Care. As the tertiary care provider in Northwestern Ontario, we provide comprehensive services to a population of over 250,000 residents in a region the size of France. Effectively addressing the health care needs of patients and families has earned us both Innovation Awards and Leading Practice Designations. As an academic health sciences centre, we teach the next generation of health care providers and advance medical research. Patients benefit from interprofessional teams of dedicated health care providers and access to leading-edge medical equipment and clinical trials.

Dr. Jinqiang Hou