Smoke-free patio season one example of Society’s research influence

14 April 2015

Toronto -

With spring temperatures finally here across parts of Canada, patio season may be just weeks away. This year, second-hand smoke won’t cloud some bustling patios or entice those trying to quit smoking, thanks in part to the work of one Society-funded researcher.

“Research in prevention can have a dramatic impact on both reducing the burden of cancer and on influencing policy makers,” says Dr Michael Chaiton, an assistant professor of Epidemiology at the University of Toronto and a scientist at the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU), whose research has influenced new tobacco control legislation. “The Society is a leader in this kind of research – research that has a direct impact on policy to create safer environments for Canadians.”

The Canadian Cancer Society’s 2014 Research Impact Report, entitled Focus, features the work of Dr Chaiton and 82 other stories showcasing the reach of the research we fund.

Research by Dr Chaiton and the OTRU looked at the effects of patio smoke on those trying to quit and revealed that people trying to ditch the pack were less likely to succeed after being exposed to second-hand smoke on a patio. This research contributed to the evidence supporting Ontario’s ban of smoking in public outdoor spaces, which the government announced in late 2014. The work also builds on the Society’s reputation of powerful tobacco control research that influences policy through our Propel Centre for Population Health Impact. This story is one example of how research funded by the Society is having a tangible effect on the fight against cancer.

“We are so proud to invest in our community of researchers,” says Dr Siân Bevan, Director of Research at the Canadian Cancer Society. “Their remarkable achievements truly are helping improve our ability to prevent, detect and treat cancers and find new ways to improve the quality of life for those affected by this disease.”  

Canadian Cancer Society investment

In 2014, thanks to our generous donors, our research institute funded:

  • 312 lead investigators, 550 co-applicants and 514 research trainees
  • 408 total investments, and 187 new investments

The research we fund significantly impacted healthcare and program delivery, policy, the development of patents, and industry investments. Last year alone, Society-funded researchers made significant progress in the fight against cancer, producing 703 publications, 1,186 presentations and 1, 513 collaborations.

More research having an impact

Dr Rayjean Hung, Mount Sinai Hospital: With a wealth of information about human DNA now available, Dr Hung and her team identified previously unknown inherited genetic risk factors for lung cancer. For example, her team found in populations of European ancestry rare variants of the BRCA2 and CHEK2 genes that were associated with a form of lung cancer called squamous cell lung cancer. In collaboration with others, Dr Hung’s research team is leading efforts to identify genes that may have effects on multiple cancer types. This will contribute to a better understanding of the genetic basis of cancer, which could influence screening programs for people who carry inherited mutations that put them at a higher risk of developing cancer. 

Dr Caroline Diorio, Université Laval: Some studies have shown a link between the consumption of sweet foods and breast cancer risk, but the mechanics of this link and its relationship to other risk factors have been unclear. Dr Caroline Diorio and her team investigated whether increased sugar intake had an effect on breast density, an established risk factor for breast cancer. They showed that increased density was associated with high consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in premenopausal women and with high consumption of sweet foods in postmenopausal women. These findings point to an important connection between breast density and dietary sugar. This may be an important target for breast cancer prevention initiatives. 

Dr Rebecca Wong, Queen’s University, NCIC Clinical Trials Group: When cancer spreads to the bones it can be painful. These metastases are usually treated with radiation, but there is little evidence to help doctors determine the optimal doses and schedules. Dr Rebecca Wong of the Society-funded NCIC Clinical Trials Group conducted a trial across 9 countries to compare 2 radiation protocols. This trial showed that a dose administered in a single treatment was just as effective, but less toxic, than a series of lower-dose radiation treatments. All patients receiving the single treatment reported less pain and a better quality of life. These findings have important implications for the clinical treatment of bone metastases.

See more impact stories in the 2014 Research Impact Report

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.

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For more information, please contact:

Christine Harminc

Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 416 934-5340