Canadian Cancer Society funds scientist to focus a sharper lens on aggressive cancers

30 April 2013

Thunder Bay -

A Thunder Bay scientist has garnered the single largest research grant awarded by the Canadian Cancer Society in Ontario’s Northwest region to develop an innovative imaging method that could significantly improve survival for patients with aggressive cancers.

Dr Christopher Phenix of the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute has been awarded a $190,494 Innovation Grant to develop a new imaging method that could not only detect whether a tumour is present but also how likely it is to spread. This is Dr Phenix’s first research grant from the Society.

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a powerful imaging technology that can be used to detect and diagnose cancer. The PET technique involves injecting a tiny amount of an imaging agent into the body; this agent then seeks out its target cells and emits a signal to create a 3-D image on which tumours can be seen.

With this new funding, Dr Phenix and his team are developing a new imaging agent that gives off a signal only when activated by a specific protein. This protein is suspected of playing a role in the spread of cancer and chemotherapy resistance. By imaging the activity of the protein, they hope to develop PET as a method to not only detect the presence of cancer but also indicate the cancer’s potential to spread or resist treatment.

“I’m grateful to the Canadian Cancer Society because this funding will allow us to go further with the idea that PET scanning can reveal aggressive cancer much earlier and help determine which therapies have the highest chance of success for any individual patient,” says Dr Phenix.

In the long term, this new application of PET technology could assist doctors in detecting aggressive cancer early and planning the most appropriate, personalized treatment.

“The Canadian Cancer Society is proud to fund research that leads to earlier detection, better treatment and more lives saved,” says Martin Kabat, CEO, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. “We are fortunate that such innovative research takes place throughout Canada, some of it right here in Thunder Bay, and that our donors and supporters are committed to making this research possible.”

The Society’s Innovation Grants were developed to support unconventional concepts, approaches or methodologies to address problems in cancer research.

A total of 37 grants representing a $7.2 million investment across the country were awarded earlier this year, with 20 in Ontario alone. The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest national charitable funder of cancer research in Canada. For more information about the Society’s research funding, visit

For 75 years, the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website at or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY: 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Justin Edmonstone

Public Affairs

Canadian Cancer Society

Ontario Division

Phone: 416-323-7026