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Research awards

The Canadian Cancer Society promotes and recognizes excellence and outstanding achievements in cancer research.

Since 1993, we have acknowledged some of the country’s best researchers with our Canadian Cancer Society Awards for Excellence. We are proud to honour these talented men and women who have played a key role in the advancement of cancer research.

These individuals have made rich and meaningful contributions, whether in advancing biomedical cancer research or conducting research that has made a major impact in cancer control in Canada. Congratulations to all our award winners!  

Robert L. Noble Prize

The Robert L. Noble Prize is given for outstanding achievements in basic biomedical cancer research. It honours Dr Noble, an esteemed Canadian investigator whose research in the 1950s led to the discovery of vinblastine, a widely used anticancer drug. At the time, vinblastine was one of the most effective treatments available for Hodgkin lymphoma.

The award comes with a $20,000 contribution to the recipient’s research program.

Dr Morag Park, 2017 recipient

Dr Morag ParkDr Morag Park is a true leader in Canadian cancer research, widely recognized for identifying key events in cancer development and the importance of tumours’ surroundings for cancer growth. She has also demonstrated exceptional leadership in establishing national cancer research strategies.

One of Dr Park’s early milestone achievements was isolating a cell signalling protein called Met that helps control cell growth, survival and movement. She was among the first to reveal its importance in cancer, demonstrating that it could lead to tumour development in an unexpected way. Dr Park’s research highlighted Met as a promising therapeutic target in cancer.

Dr Park has also expanded our understanding of the non-cancerous supportive cells that surround tumours – the tumour microenvironment. For example, she has described how patterns of gene activity in the tumour’s supportive cells can predict how women with breast cancer will fare in the clinic. This research also opened a new avenue for cancer therapy development.

As a top scientific leader in Canada, Dr Park served as the Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) from 2008–2013. In this role, she was instrumental in establishing partnerships between Canadian and international cancer research organizations to coordinate research efforts.

Dr Park is regarded as one of the most influential breast cancer researchers worldwide. Her work has deepened our understanding of cancer, and she has guided our research community to make the most impact on cancer in Canada and beyond.

O. Harold Warwick Prize

The O. Harold Warwick Prize is given for outstanding achievements in cancer control research. It honours Dr Warwick, a pioneering researcher in cancer control and treatment, and the first executive director of the former National Cancer Institute of Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society.

The award comes with a $20,000 contribution to the recipient’s research program.

Dr Brian O'Sullivan, 2017 recipient

Dr Brian O'SullivanDr Brian O’Sullivan is a world-renowned radiation oncologist who has made outstanding contributions to clinical research in cancer control for over 30 years. His paradigm-shifting discoveries in optimizing radiation therapy and minimizing its side effects have shaped the way that cancer is treated around the world.

Dr O’Sullivan has the distinction of transforming care for 2 completely different types of cancer – cancers that affect the head and neck, and soft tissue sarcomas that affect the body’s supportive or connective tissues (e.g. muscle and fat).

Current treatments for head and neck cancers can have devastating side effects. Dr O’Sullivan’s research identified patients with tonsil cancer whose tumours can be safely treated with less radiation to help preserve salivary gland function and avoid long-term complications. His research also identified patients with mouth and throat cancers related to the human papillomavirus (HPV) who may be able to safely receive less aggressive therapy.

Among his accomplishments in sarcoma research, Dr O’Sullivan led a pivotal clinical trial that revealed that radiation was more beneficial when given before surgery rather than afterwards. This established a new standard of care for sarcoma, changing practice worldwide. More recently, his research on a form of radiation therapy guided by medical imaging led to its adoption for sarcoma treatment at several international cancer centres.

Dr O’Sullivan’s commitment to serving the global cancer research community has been unwavering, including his long-standing work with the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) on improving the TNM (tumour, lymph node, metastasis) classification system and making it more accessible worldwide. His research has had a direct impact on cancer care, leading to better treatment strategies with fewer side effects.

William E. Rawls Prize

The William E. Rawls Prize is given to a young investigator whose outstanding contributions have the potential to lead to, or have already led to important advances in cancer control. It honours Dr Rawls, past president of the former National Cancer Institute of Canada. His research focused on viruses, particularly those involved in chronic diseases and cervical cancer.

The award comes with a $20,000 contribution to the recipient’s research program. 

Dr Philippe Bedard, 2017 recipient

Dr Pilippe BedardDr Philippe Bedard is a medical oncologist who is changing the landscape of personalized cancer medicine in Canada. His leadership of innovative clinical trials matching cancer therapies to the molecular features of individual tumours is changing how cancer is treated.

One of his many achievements has been the establishment and co-leadership of a molecular profiling program designed to map the abnormalities present in patients’ advanced solid tumours to fulfill the promise of personalized cancer medicine. This program has tested hundreds of cancer genes in tumour samples from thousands of patients, delivering results rapidly to guide personalized treatment decisions. It has now been expanded across Ontario, and Dr Bedard has spearheaded 2 trials to evaluate whether the program improves patient care.

Dr Bedard performs many clinical trials in breast cancer, as well as early phase trials of innovative new treatments in humans. He has deep expertise in complex trials combining multiple targeted drugs or immunotherapies. Collectively, these trials are providing key evidence on the safety, benefits and limitations of targeted or personalized cancer therapy.

Dr Bedard is recognized internationally as a leader in cancer genomics and an excellent mentor for the clinical researchers of tomorrow. By evaluating the safety and efficacy of new treatments and incorporating molecular profiling into routine care, Dr Bedard is making major contributions to advancing cancer control in Canada and beyond.

Bernard and Francine Dorval Prize

The Bernard and Francine Dorval Prize is given to a young investigator whose outstanding contributions to basic biomedical research have the potential to lead, or have already led to improved understanding of cancer treatments and/or cures. It honours Bernard and Francine Dorval, whose longstanding support of the Society has helped to raise more than two million dollars in support of Society-funded research, policy work and programs.

This award comes with a $20,000 contribution to the recipient’s research program.

Dr Daniel De Carvalho, 2017 co-recipient

Dr Daniel De CarvalhoDr Daniel De Carvalho is one of Canada’s rising stars in cancer research. In the early stages of his career, he has already transformed our understanding of how gene activity is controlled in cancer, leading to innovative therapeutic approaches.

Dr De Carvalho’s research focuses on epigenetics (chemical marks on the DNA that act as a code to turn genes on or off) – how this impacts cancer development and how this can lead to new treatments. His research also spans an interface with other leading-edge disciplines, such as cancer immunology and cancer stem cells.

While many epigenetic changes can be detected in cancers, only some of them actively drive cancer development and growth. Dr De Carvalho was the first to define epigenetic changes that were a driving force in colorectal cancer. His research has also revealed that an epigenetic drug can trick colorectal cancer stem cells into mounting an immune response as if they had been infected with a virus – stopping them in their tracks. This has fundamentally changed our understanding of how epigenetic drugs work as cancer therapies. This research has also led to new clinical trials combining epigenetic drugs with immunotherapy, rapidly impacting patients’ lives.

Dr De Carvalho is seen as a role model for young scientists across the country and beyond. He is widely appreciated as a world leader who bridges several disciplines in cancer research, accelerating progress toward a world where no one fears cancer.

Dr Mathieu Lupien, 2017 co-recipient

Dr Mathieu Lupien

Dr Mathieu Lupien is an innovative young scientist poised to change cancer in Canada and beyond. Early in his cancer research career, he has already built an international reputation based on his research on the epigenetics of cancer – how chemical modifications on the DNA and associated proteins regulate the function of the genome, like light switches.

His pioneering research on how genes work in cancer has revealed the impact of the non-coding genome, which comprises over 98% of the human genome. The non-coding genome was once considered to be “junk” with little biological consequence. Dr Lupien has provided paradigm-shifting evidence that, in fact, these regions of the genome are of utmost importance to cancer risk and development.

Dr Lupien has published several landmark discoveries of how epigenetic research can reveal the crucial role for both genetic and epigenetic alterations in non-coding DNA in cancer initiation and progression, identifying new targets for cancer therapy. These projects included the characterization of important non-coding DNA genetic variants and acquired mutations linked to breast, prostate and brain cancer development.

Dr Lupien is viewed as a generous collaborator and an exceptional mentor for the next generation of Canadian scientific leaders. His eye for details in research is complemented by an appreciation of the “big picture” and an inspiring passion. Overall, his world-class research program is expected to translate directly into improved cancer diagnosis and treatment.

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