Canadian Cancer Society innovation

01 March 2012

The Canadian Cancer Society Innovation Grants received 2 mentions in the March 6 Debates of the Senate. Senators urged fellow Canadians to make the best possible investment in the fight against cancer by making a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Below are the full transcripts of the 2 statements by the Hon. Irving Gerstein and Hon. Terry M. Mercer

More information on the Innovation Grants 

Hon. Irving Gerstein: Honourable senators, I rise today to talk about gambling, specifically gambling on innovative cancer research, as reported in the March 1 edition of The Globe and Mail. The Canadian Cancer Society, Canada's largest charitable funder of cancer research, is taking a calculated risk with a number of talented cancer researchers who have applied to the society's new innovation grants program. Some of Canada's finest researchers are working on sea lampreys and tumour-killing viruses and applying other creative approaches in their efforts to tame the beast we call cancer. Thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society and this new grant program, we will have the opportunity to witness what scientists will be able to achieve when giving funding that supports bold, original approaches and methodologies in cancer research. This is good news for all Canadians.

Let me tell honourable senators why. Last year, I shared with you that I was diagnosed as having bladder cancer and the subsequent excellent treatment I received by Mount Sinai Hospital's Dr Alexandre Zlotta. I am delighted to tell you that Dr Zlotta was awarded one of the Canadian Cancer Society's new innovation grants. In association with Dr Jeff Wrana, senior investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital, they hopefully will develop a tool to distinguish aggressive from non-aggressive bladder cancer tumours, or to put it in other words, a tool to "distinguish pussycats from tigers." If successful, this could have a huge impact on what is currently a costly and invasive treatment process. These scientists are adapting a molecular analysis tool that was developed initially for breast cancer. How is that for being innovative?

Honourable senators know that from time to time I wear a fundraising hat, and today is no exception. I am appealing to you on behalf of the approximately 180,000 Canadians who will face a cancer diagnosis this year; for 7,000 of them it will be bladder cancer. You can help them.

I urge honourable senators to support the Canadian Cancer Society however you can. Thanks to a donor base made up of average Canadians across the country, the Canadian Cancer Society contributed $48 million to cancer research last year. The society funds the full spectrum of research from causes and prevention to treatment and palliative care. It funds research into all cancers. Thanks to the millions of dollars that society has put into cancer research over the past several decades, 62 per cent of cancer patients will survive their diagnosis, as compared to 38 per cent in the 1960s. For all these reasons, and I have not even mentioned their advocacy, information and support programs, I encourage honourable senators and all Canadians to make the best possible investment in the fight against cancer by making a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, Senator Gerstein has mentioned a word that you all know means a lot to me: philanthropy. The innovation grants recently awarded by the Canadian Cancer Society have been fully supported by the donations of Canadians like you. That is exactly why we should celebrate philanthropy at every opportunity. In fact, tomorrow they will be speaking at second reading in the other place on Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day. That bill highlights our appreciation of the many benefits achieved by donors and volunteers across Canada. I thank you for your support over the years in that.

Honourable senators, today Senator Gerstein has brought us more evidence of why philanthropy in this country must be celebrated. The Canadian Cancer Society's innovation grants simply would not exist without donors. They have allowed the society to develop this new strategic grant program that supports the best in scientific creativity, risk taking and knowledge. Many of us, including our families, friends and colleagues, have already benefited from research funded by the society.

For example, the 1963 discovery of stem cells by Dr James Till and Dr Ernest McCulloch forms the basis of bone marrow transplantation, which has saved thousands of lives worldwide. Also, the discovery of the gene responsible for hereditary stomach cancer means families can now be tested and have preventive surgery.

Donors and volunteers, through Ovarian Cancer Canada, have also helped more women in Canada detect ovarian cancer early, which has increased survival rates. This September my wife, an ovarian cancer survivor, and I will participate in the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope, as we have many times in the past. We thank you for your support and encourage your participation.

Honourable senators, these contributions to science and our health are a direct result of Canadians' philanthropic contributions. I applaud all the donors who support research and innovation, specifically today through the Canadian Cancer Society, but also through all other foundations and organizations that Canadians help every day.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.