By: Zeynep Kahramanoğlu

The Canadian Cancer Society held their Awards for Excellence in Research ceremony this past November. Hosted by Canadian actor Allan Hawco, the event recognizes the researchers whose work helped uncover the complexity that is cancer.

“Yes, you have cancer, but it doesn’t have to define you,” says Guest Speaker Yaslyma Ramsankar.

Ramsankar was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer: Neuroendocrine cancer, but her tumour has shrunk considerably since then. Ramsankar opened the night with messages of hope and resilience to a room full of cancer research game changers.

World-renowned expert in translational research, Dr. Jerry Pelletier was awarded the Robert L. Noble Prize, which is awarded for outstanding achievements in basic biomedical cancer research. He is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Oncology at McGill University. It was Dr. Pelletier’s work in targeting translation that has made a great impact on the way we treat cancer and many other diseases.

Dr. Timothy Whelan, from McMaster University and a leader in the field of radiation therapy for breast cancer, was awarded the O. Harold Warwick Prize. This Prize is given to a researcher who greatly contributed to cancer control research.

Dr. Whelan showed that the treatment method of a stronger dose and a shorter radiation schedule is beneficial. This practice is the current standard of care, not only in Canada, but around the world. 

The William E. Rawls Prize was co-awarded to Dr. Darren Brenner of the University of Calgary, and Dr. David Palma of Western University, Lawson Health Research Institute, London Health Sciences Center, and the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research. This Prize was awarded to young investigators whose outstanding contributions have the potential to lead to, or have already led to, important advances in cancer control. 

Dr. Brenner is an epidemiologist, whose work highlighted the major impacts of modifiable factors in lifestyle and environment on cancer incidence in Canada.

Dr. Palma led the first-ever international clinical trial on a new radiation treatment called SABR, which helps patients with metastatic cancer. 

Dr. Benjamin Haibe-Kains from the University Health Network and the University of Toronto was awarded the Bernard and Francine Dorval Prize. This Prize is given to a young investigator whose research have the potential to lead, or have already led to improved understanding of cancer treatments.

Dr. Haibe-Kains’ research applied mathematics, statistics and computer science to the understanding of human disease. He found new genetic signatures for different types and subtypes of cancer, translating into new testing methods in the clinic to better diagnose cancer and predict the course of disease.

Congratulations to all the awardees! Here’s to many more discoveries and breakthroughs to help improve our understanding of cancer and our ways of treating it. For more information on the winners, please check out the article by the Canadian Cancer Society here.

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