Vera Peters

Canadian stamp Vera Peters

Date of issue: September 10, 2020
Series: Medical Groundbreakers
Design: Mike Savage, Dale Kilian

Vera Peters

Vera Peters was born in 1911 in Toronto. She graduated from medicine from University of Toronto in 1934 and became one of the first female professors in its Faculty of Medicine. While in medical school, her mother was discovered to have breast cancer, for which she had a radical mastectomy and, following disease recurrence, radiotherapy. These events inspired Peters to pursue training in radiotherapy.

Her early research was with Hodgkin lymphoma, which at that time was invariably fatal. She showed that radiotherapy was potentially curative in patients with low stage disease. She also became involved in breast cancer research and, in 1975, published the first controlled study showing that the outcome from wedge resection (“lumpectomy”) and radiation was equal to or better than more invasive procedures such as the radical mastectomy her mother had undergone. Peters died in 1993.

The Stamp

The stamp shows cancer cells as seen under the microscope in the background behind Peters. A magnified view of these cells on the first day cover shows a Reed-Sternberg cell, characteristic of Hodgkin lymphoma, just under and to the right of Postes Canada. Between Peters and the cells on the stamp is an image of a radioisotope-based “Cobalt X-otron”, a device developed at the Ontario Cancer Center in the 1950s and used by Peters for treating her patients. The medal of the Order of Canada – of which she became an officer in 1978 – can be seen in the stamp's upper left corner.

First-day cover Vera Peters

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