The Canadian Cancer Society honoured six prestigious researchers in December at the Awards for Excellence in Cancer Research event. Dr. Judy Bray, Vice-President of Research at the Canadian Cancer Society, opened the event stating that it was “a very difficult decision” with “a vigorous screening process” to pick outstanding Canadian scientists for this year.

Before awarding the researchers, master of ceremonies, Dr. Morag Park, introduced Michelle Burleigh, a cancer survivor, to speak about her experience and her blog So You Think You Got Cancer. Burleigh, a former leukemia patient, thanked Dr. Mick Bhatia, Canada Research Chair in Human Stem Cell Biology, in a moving and inspirational speech.

Dr. Rodger Tiedemann and Dr. Gelareh Zadeh were both awarded the William E. Rawls Prize, recognizing investigators whose research led to important advances in cancer control. Dr. Tiedemann identified several new targets in multiple myeloma involved in chemotherapy resistance. Dr. Zadeh’s research put the spotlight on a rare nerve tissue tumour known as schwannoma, as well as looking into its potential druggable targets. Dr. Zadeh also examined key findings on meningiomas caused by radiation.

Dr. Paul Boutros, whose research identified new genes involved in prostate cancer aggressiveness as potential new drug targets, was awarded the Bernard and Francine Dorval Prize.

The Robert L. Nobel Prize was awarded to immunotherapy researcher and advocate Dr. Pamela Ohashi. This prize is awarded to the researcher with an outstanding achievement in basic biomedical research. Dr. Ohashi has contributed significantly to how we approach cancer treatment and exploring the way our body’s immune system responds in the face of cancer.

The O.Harold Warwick Prize was awarded to both Dr. J. Gregory Cairncross and Dr. Kerry Courneya for their outstanding achievement in cancer control research. Dr. Cairncross is heavily involved in creating the standards and techniques for cancer research and clinical trials still used today. Dr. Courneya has been a pioneer in the field of behaviour and exercise oncology by providing some of the first evidence for the role of exercise in improving survivorship and overall quality of life for patients.

Collaboration was the theme of the night, colleagues recognizing colleagues in every awardee speech. CCS themselves donated over $46.5 million to research this year. Dr. Judy Bray closed the night with an insightful analogy comparing cancer research to a jigsaw puzzle where we have the pieces, but no final picture. The unified and diverse efforts of volunteers, caregivers, medical teams, and dollars donated all help contribute new pieces to this puzzle. As researchers, it is our job to keep fitting more of these pieces together in order to progress our global understanding of the big picture. Doing so will allow us to develop breakthrough therapies that advance our ability to treat and overcome the complex disease that is cancer.

Learn more about the Canadian Cancer Society research award winners here.

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