Media Release

Canadian Cancer Society honours researchers making global impact in precision medicine, radiation therapy and drug development


Today the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) announced the winners of its most prestigious awards: the Canadian Cancer Society Awards for Excellence in cancer research.

The 2019 award recipients are driving game-changing advancements in cancer research, particularly in the areas of precision medicine, radiation therapy and drug development. Their work spans across multiple cancer types and fields of research, from understanding the cellular processes underlying cancer to clinical trials that have transformed the standard of care for cancer around the world. Collectively, their efforts are changing the ways we prevent, diagnose, treat and live with and beyond cancer.

“Today’s winners have shown tremendous dedication to the cancer cause. Their work has had significant impact on both the cancer research community and the lives of people affected by cancer,” says Dr Judy Bray, Vice President of Research at CCS. “It is thanks to research advancements made by scientists like our award recipients that the overall cancer survival rate has increased from 55% in the early 1990s to 63% today, and I have no doubt we will continue to see progress as a result of their efforts.”

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 comprised of leading researchers from across the country who serve on CCS’s Advisory Council on Research along with previous award winners. Each award comes with a contribution to the recipient’s research program. Award winners will be honoured at a ceremony in Toronto today hosted by Canadian actor Allan Hawco.

“With nearly 1 in 2 Canadians expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, there is still much more that needs to be done to create a world where no Canadian fears cancer,” says Bray. “That’s why we continue to invest in innovative and impactful cancer research in communities across Canada to help people to live longer and enhance their quality of life. We are grateful to our funded researchers for their tireless work in helping us achieve this goal and to our donors for making all of this possible.”

The award winners are as follows:

Recipient of the Bernard and Francine Dorval Prize: Dr Benjamin Haibe-Kains, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (Toronto, ON)

Dr Benjamin Haibe-Kains is a data scientist and leader in the field of computational medicine, which applies mathematics, statistics and computer science to the understanding of human disease. His research uses large sets of genetic and clinical data to develop better ways of diagnosing and treating people with cancer. Dr Haibe-Kains has made significant contributions to advance precision medicine for cancer. His research uncovered new genetic signatures for different types and subtypes of cancer, which has translated to new tests used in the clinic to better diagnose cancer and predict the course of disease.

Recipient of the O. Harold Warwick Prize: Dr Timothy Whelan, McMaster University (Hamilton, ON)

Dr Timothy Whelan is a radiation oncologist and researcher who is described by his peers as a world leader in the field of radiation therapy for breast cancer. He led game-changing studies which showed a shorter course of radiation is as safe and effective as a longer course and a new radiation strategy offers benefits in reducing the risk of disease recurrence and improving survival. His studies have led to these new treatment strategies being adopted worldwide as the new standard of care, improving care for people with breast cancer and helping them live longer and fuller lives.

Recipient of the Robert L. Noble Prize: Dr Jerry Pelletier, McGill University (Montreal, QC)

Dr Jerry Pelletier is a world-renowned expert in research on translation, the process by which proteins are made. Translation is a critical process for cell growth but when it goes awry, it can lead to cancer. Dr Pelletier is internationally recognized for seminal contributions he made about how protein synthesis begins and how it is controlled. He also identified several new drugs that can stop proteins from being made and have shown great promise as treatments for a number of different cancers. Thanks to his work, new drugs are being tested and developed as therapies to help people with cancer and many other diseases.

Co-recipient of the William Rawls Prize: Dr Darren Brenner, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

Dr Darren Brenner is an epidemiologist whose research is focused on understanding how lifestyle and environment interact with genetics to impact cancer risk. He has made significant contributions to cancer control research in Canada and established a research program focused on cancer prevention through the study of lifestyle, molecular and genetic pathways and cancer risk. Dr Brenner’s research has highlighted the major impact of modifiable risk factors on cancer incidence and shed light on the preventable burden of cancer in this country. His findings will guide future prevention research and inform the development of new cancer prevention programs and policies.

Co-recipient of the William Rawls Prize: Dr David Palma, Western University (London, ON)

Dr David Palma is recognized globally as a leader in the field of radiation oncology. He led a first-of-its-kind study which showed that targeted, high dose radiation can prolong survival and delay disease progression in people whose cancer had spread to a limited number of sites. These results are practice changing and offer new hope to people with limited metastasis. Dr Palma has also made significant contributions to improving medical education and is the bestselling author of Taking Charge of Cancer: What You Need to Know to Get the Best Treatment, a book that provides practical advice for people with cancer and their families to obtain the best quality care possible.

About research at the Canadian Cancer Society

CCS is the largest national charitable funder of cancer research in Canada. We fund researchers who are leaders in their fields and are paving the way for future advancements in the way we prevent, diagnose, treat and live with and beyond cancer. Last year, CCS invested almost $40 million in promising research across the country. However, almost 50% of high-priority research projects were unfunded because of the money available. With the support of Canadians, we can enable more researchers to make discoveries that will impact the lives of people affected by cancer around the world.

About the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit today.

For more information, please contact:

Betty Zou
Manager, Research Communications
Canadian Cancer Society
Phone: 416 934-5340