The Baker Centre for Pancreatic Cancer: A centre of research, care and innovation

Photo: From left to right: Nancy Gregg, Patient Health Facilitator; James Mulligan, Dietitian; Dr. John Lenehan, Medical Oncology

October 25, 2022

The Baker Centre for Pancreatic Cancer opened in 2019 as part of the vision of Rick Baker and his wife Shelley. They generously donated $1.5 million to support pancreatic cancer care and research in the London region after Rick Baker was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was encouraged by their London care teams to find treatment options not available locally. This donation has made a significant, positive impact on patients’ access to specialized care that was not previously available in London.

The Baker Centre team is located on the third floor of the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) in recognition of the Bakers and their generous contributions to pancreatic care and research, but its services extend beyond this symbolic space. New patients of the Baker Centre are welcomed into a clinic within the LRCP, and a multidisciplinary team including surgery oncology, medical oncology and radiation oncology team members assess and determine a care plan designed specifically for the patient’s needs. Other team members include, a primary nurse, Patient Health Facilitator, the clinical research team, a dietitian and a social worker. A member from each of these groups will meet with the patient on their initial visit as applicable.

At the Baker Centre, the multidisciplinary team includes a relatively unique role of a Patient Health Facilitator (PHF). The PHF will coordinate the patient’s care and ensure that all necessary appointments and services are arranged in a timely manner. The PHF will also review all of the information given to the patient at the initial consultation appointment to ensure the patient and family understand the care plan moving forward. At that initial appointment, the PHF provides the patient with contact information so that the patient knows who to call with questions, and/or concerns.

Some fast facts about the Baker Centre for Pancreatic Cancer:

  • The Baker Centre serves the entire South West region of Ontario.
  • Research studies include quality-improvement databases, genetic testing and other novel treatment programs.
  • There are about a dozen research projects currently open or imminently opening.
  • Research is integrated as a part of treatment at the Centre. Patients are encouraged to participate in studies they are eligible for. This approach both advances knowledge about how to treat pancreatic cancer and allows patients access to novel treatments.
  • Genetic sequencing is available to patients coming through the Baker Centre. When sequencing, researchers may find genetic mutations that are actionable. The goal of sequencing is in the realm of precision medicine – finding the right treatment for the right patient at the right time. By sequencing patient genomics, the ability to tailor treatments based off of the patient’s specific genomics can become possible.
  • There are translational studies available where patients don’t necessarily participate, but simply donate tissue to grow pancreatic organoids to see if some patients will respond to certain treatments.
  • We can grow a patient's tumour outside of their body. Sometimes we can do this for years.
  • Each patient's tumour has a unique genetic signature and a unique appearance that mimics what the tumour see in the patient.
  • Often these tumours, which we call organoids, maintain sensitivity or resistance to chemotherapy drugs. This may help us identify the right way to treat a patient.
  • Rick Baker was a founder of a brewery called Equals Brewing Company Inc. The Shake Lager – named after Rick, is a very poplar drink sold locally with a percentage of sales going back to the Baker Centre program.
  • The Baker family is actively involved with the ongoing fundraising efforts as well as research, treatment innovations and care available to patients through the Baker Centre.
Photo: From left to right: Nancy Gregg, Patient Health Facilitator; James Mulligan, Dietitian; Dr. John Lenehan, Medical Oncology
Image (from left to right): Nancy Gregg, Patient Health Facilitator; James Mulligan, Dietitian; Dr. John Lenehan, Medical Oncology