Top 10 Canadian Cancer Society-funded research of 2014

18 December 2014

Toronto -

Research funded by the Canadian Cancer Society will ultimately change cancer forever. The following represents some of the highest impact research of 2014 and highlights the breadth of research supported by the Society's donors.

Photo of Dr Alberto Martin

Carbs, gut microbes fuel colorectal cancer

Genetics, diet and gut microbes all contribute to the development of colorectal cancer, but how these factors work together to promote cancer is not well understood. Dr Alberto Martin in Toronto investigated these connections in a mouse model of colorectal cancer and found that gut microbes resulting from a diet high in carbohydrates interacted with cancer-causing genes to fuel cancer development. These findings have important implications for reducing cancer risk by changing diet and the make-up of gut microbes. Reference: Cell, July 2014 

Photo of Dr Samuel Aparicio
Mapping the evolution of cancer cells

Dr Samuel Aparicio and Dr Sohrab Shah in Vancouver made important discoveries that shed light on how cancer cells evolve in tumours. The researchers developed a new tool to group genetic mutations in a single tumour and used it to predict how cells in breast cancers evolve and grow over time. Understanding and predicting changes in complex cancers may provide new options for targeted treatments.
References: Nature Methods, March 2014 and Nature, November 2014

Photo of Dr John Dick
Gene mutation could be the trigger for leukemia

In Toronto, Dr John Dick investigated the importance of over 100 genes commonly mutated in the early stages of leukemia. He found that a mutation in the gene DNMT3A plays a key role, making cells with this mutation resistant to chemotherapy and faster growing than normal stem cells. These findings identify a possible starting point for the disease which could help doctors diagnose and treat patients earlier.
Reference: Nature, April 2014  

Photo of Dr Robert Bristow and colleagues
Genetic test to predict prostate cancer relapse

Dr Robert Bristow in Toronto was part of an international team that developed a genetic test to predict which men are at highest risk of their prostate cancers returning following treatment. This test provides a way to identify patients who need more aggressive treatments, while avoiding over-treatment for patients whose cancers are less likely to return.
Reference: Lancet Oncology, November 2014 

Photo of Dr Rayjean Hung

Gene mutations linked to lung cancer risk

Dr Rayjean Hung in Toronto was part of an international research team that found rare variations of the BRCA2 and CHEK2 genes associated with squamous cell lung cancer in people of European ancestry. They also found genetic links for lung adenocarcinoma with a gene variation previously only reported in Asian populations. These findings contribute new knowledge about the genetic basis of lung cancer and have implications for the screening of high-risk individuals with these inherited mutations.
Reference: Nature Genetics, June 2014

Photo of Dr Donald Mabbott
Long-term effects of treatment for childhood brain cancer

A study led by Dr Donald Mabbott in Toronto found that children treated for medulloblastoma, a childhood brain cancer, had smaller regions of the brain associated with learning and memory, which was also linked to impairment in these abilities. This study highlights the need for more targeted therapies that minimize the late effects of treatment on survivors.
Reference: Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, January 2014

Photo of Dr Michael Chaiton

Banning patio smoking helps smokers to quit

Dr Michael Chaiton in Toronto led a survey of over 3,000 smokers about their exposure to smoke on patios and found that smokers were less likely to be successful in their quitting efforts after being exposed to tobacco smoke on a patio. These findings were used as evidence to support an Ontario government ban on smoking on patios and other outdoor public spaces.
Reference: Tobacco Control, October 2014 

Photo of Dr Mick Bhatia
Not all stem cells are created equal

Dr Mick Bhatia in Hamilton discovered that human stem cells made from adult donor cells remembered what cell types they came from. When reprogrammed in the lab they preferentially reverted to their original cell type. Dr Bhatia’s discovery will have important implications for new stem cell therapies.
Reference: Nature Communications, December 2014

Photo of Dr Stuart Peacock

The costs and benefits of lung cancer screening

A study led by Dr Stuart Peacock in Vancouver showed that the average costs of screening individuals at high-risk for lung cancer and treating cancerous growths discovered through early detection were lower than the costs of treating advanced lung cancer. These findings provide important information to policymakers considering the value of lung cancer screening programs in high-risk groups.
Reference: Journal of Thoracic Oncology, October 2014 

Photo of the research team of Dr Claude Perreault

Making immunotherapies work for more people

Harnessing the immune system’s powerful ability to fight cancer, Dr Claude Perreault in Montreal has identified new molecules that attract T cells, the body’s natural killing machines which help fight off germs and diseases. Dr Perreault used a new approach to identify molecules that attract the T cell’s cancer-fighting abilities. These findings could help increase the number of cancer patients who could benefit from immunotherapies.
Reference: Nature Communications, April 2014

Through our generous donors and gold-standard peer-review process, the Canadian Cancer Society funds the best cancer research in Canada. Our funded researchers work in universities, hospitals and research centres across the country and are mapping new ways to change cancer forever. For more information, visit or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Christine Harminc

Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 416 934-5340