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Dr Brian OSullivan

O. Harold Warwick Prize, 2017 recipient

Dr Brian O'SullivanDr 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.

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Now I know that I will help someone with cancer even after I’m gone. It’s a footprint I want to leave behind me.

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