Six esteemed researchers bag the Excellence in Cancer Research Awards

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Six esteemed researchers bag the prestigious Canadian Cancer Society Awards for Excellence in Cancer Research. 

The 2018 award recipients are changing the ways we prevent, diagnose, treat and live with and beyond cancer and are helping to drive game-changing advancements in cancer research.

“With 1 in 2 Canadians expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, the research advancements made by these dedicated scientists have benefitted, and will continue to benefit, millions of people,” says Dr Judy Bray, vice president of Research at the Canadian Cancer Society. “We believe these researchers will continue to accelerate progress against cancer, helping Canadians to live longer, fuller and healthier lives.”

The Awards for Excellence promote and recognize outstanding achievements and progress in Canadian cancer research. Nominees for the award are evaluated by a selection committee drawn from the ranks of CCS’s Advisory Council on Research along with previous award winners. Each award comes with a contribution to each recipient’s research program and will be honoured at a ceremony in Toronto in November.

“Generous donors across the country make it possible to fund research projects like the ones led by these award recipients,” says Bray. “Today’s winners are true leaders in their fields and continue to pave the way for future research advancements thanks to the dedication they have shown to the cancer cause.”

The award winners are as follows:

Recipient of the Bernard and Francine Dorval Prize: Dr. Paul Boutros, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, (Toronto, ON)

Dr. Paul Boutros is described by his colleagues as a superstar in his field. His research aims to uncover new genetic signatures that can improve cancer diagnosis and prognosis and guide the creation of personalized therapies for individual patients. To do this, his team develops powerful computer programs that can sift through vast amounts of data from tumour samples to identify unique genetic features that correlate with whether a tumour responds to a drug and how well a patient will fare.

Co-recipient of the O. Harold Warwick Prize: Dr. J. Gregory Cairncross, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

Dr. J. Gregory Cairncross is an international expert in brain cancer research whose work has had a significant and lasting impact on how this disease is treated and studied. He was the first to discover that oligodendrogliomas, a type of brain cancer that accounts for roughly 20 per cent of all primary brain tumours, could be treated effectively with chemotherapy and that a specific genetic abnormality in these brain tumours predicts whether a patient will respond to chemotherapy.

Co-recipient of the O. Harold Warwick Prize: Dr. Kerry Courneya, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

Dr. Kerry Courneya is a pioneer in the field of exercise oncology. His research focuses on how exercise can help patients prepare for treatments, cope with symptoms and side effects, recover after treatments and live longer. Dr. Courneya is best known for his seminal studies showing that exercise improves the quality of life of breast and colorectal cancer survivors. Thanks to his research, patients now receive counseling on exercise, healthy eating and weight management at diagnosis and throughout their cancer journey, enabling them to live longer, fuller lives.

Recipient of the Robert L. Noble Prize: Dr. Pamela Ohashi, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (Toronto, ON)

Dr. Pamela Ohashi is a world-renowned leader in cancer immunology, an area of research that focuses on the role of the immune system in the development and progression of cancer. Her work has shaped our understanding of how the immune system reacts to tumours and how we can harness that potential to treat the disease. Under her leadership, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre became the first site in Canada to offer immunotherapy clinical trials using adoptive cell therapy. In this approach, a patient’s own white blood cells are taken out, modified in the lab to enhance their cancer-fighting ability and then given back to the patient.

Co-recipient of the William Rawls Prize: Dr. Rodger Tiedemann, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (Toronto, ON)

Dr. Rodger Tiedemann is a rising star in multiple myeloma research. Multiple myeloma is cancer that starts in a type of white blood cell called plasma cells. In a breakthrough study, Dr. Tiedemann demonstrated the existence of a population of atypical plasma cells that allow multiple myeloma to become resistant to a key chemotherapy drug. This finding settled nearly 20 years of controversy about how treatment resistance arises in multiple myeloma and provided important insights for new strategies to overcome resistance.

Co-recipient of the William Rawls Prize: Dr. Gelareh Zadeh, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network (Toronto, ON)

Dr. Gelareh Zadeh is a neurosurgeon and scientist whose colleagues describe her as being on a meteoric rise to the top. Her clinical practice and research focus on brain tumours, specifically glioblastomas, meningiomas and Schwannomas. She has published seminal studies on the unique genetic features associated with these cancers, paving the way for precision medicine approaches for these patients.

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