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At the frontlines of cancer research: How QHS is leading the fight

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This story is part of #TheNext25, an ongoing series exploring how Queen's Health Sciences is reimagining health education, research, and patient care. 

Queen's Health Sciences (QHS) is an international leader in cancer research. In honour of the annual Terry Fox Run on September 18, we highlight some of the groundbreaking work conducted by our researchers, graduate students, clinicians, and research partners in Kingston and around the world.

Global Health

We can have an immediate impact on patients everywhere if we ensure they all get access to the treatments we already know work.
Dr. Chris Booth, Canada Research Chair in Population Cancer Care
  • Cancer database: An international group of researchers and physicians based at Queen’s and institutions in Sri Lanka—led by Dr. Don Thiwanka Wijeratne (Internal Medicine)—have developed the first database of cancer patients in Sri Lanka; a project that will make important contributions to cancer care.
  • The impact of delayed cancer treatments: Dr. Timothy Hanna (Oncology) led an international study that discovered there is a significant impact on a person’s mortality if their cancer treatment is delayed by even one month.
  • Bringing radiotherapy to more patients: A 2022 study by Dr. Fabio Ynoe de Moraes (Oncology) and University of São Paulo (Brazil) saw researchers develop a new tool to help set priorities for building radiotherapy infrastructure – helping to improve access to cancer care.
  • Improving cancer patient outcomes: Dr. Bishal Gyawali's work is changing how cancer patients access care in his native country of Nepal.   
  • Watch Dr. Chris Booth (Oncology) deliver his QHS Cinq à Sept Research Talk called The Emperor Has No Clothes: Finding Our Way Again in Cancer Care. Learn more about his related research revealing essential cancer medicines is unequal globally.
  • Dr. Gyawali and Dr. Booth recently published a paper calling for “a common-sense revolution in oncology” that would prioritize treatments that meaningfully improve survival and quality of life.
  • Queen’s University and Pallium India have formalized their long-standing partnership to improve palliative care services in India through education, research, and policy initiatives.  

Global Health photo courtesy Tom Price

Patient Care: patient trajectory and survivorship

Patient Care
The overall goal of my research program is to advance nursing knowledge that will ultimately impact patient safety and quality of life outcomes.
Dr. Marian Luctkar-Flude, associate professor, School of Nursing
  • Dr. Janet Jull’s (School of Rehabilitation) work on cancer survivorship in Indigenous communities highlights the need for cancer care that promotes self-determination and reconciliation.
  • Dr. Marian Luctkar-Flude’s (School of Nursing) research focuses on enhancing the transition to cancer survivorship, and includes projects on cancer survivorship care guideline dissemination using mobile apps and virtual simulation.
  • Dr. Jacqueline Galica’s (School of Nursing) patient-care research took on an important focus during COVID-19, when she conducted research to better understand how older cancer survivors are coping during the pandemic.

Mechanism and Diagnosis: pathology and cell biology

Clinical trials are at the end of the pipeline. If we don’t keep having new ideas, that pipeline will get stagnant. We can’t just do applied research – we must do discovery as well. Discovery research is how we tackle what to do next
Dr. Lynne-Marie Postivit, Department Head, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences
  • Dr. Christopher Mueller (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences; Pathology and Molecular Medicine) examined a new test (mDETECT) to help find metastatic breast cancer based on the presence of circulating tumour DNA in the blood.
  • Using the immune system to aid in cancer treatment is one area of study for Dr. Tricia Cottrell (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) and her research lab. She focuses on advancing clinical biomarker tests by studying tumour tissue specimens and on mapping complex interactions between cancer cells and the immune system using multiplex immunofluorescence and digital image analysis.
  • Dr. Lynne-Marie Postivit’s (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) work is helping women with breast and ovarian cancer live longer, healthier lives. Her research reveals how understanding breast cancer drugs can prevent recurrence.
  • Queen’s experts are looking at how machine learning techniques and artificial intelligence solutions might help physicians interpret—and predict—cancer spread through imaging tests like CT scans to make better treatment decisions. Learn more about this collaboration between Dr. Amber Simpson (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, School of Computing) and Dr. Farhana Zulkernine (School of Computing)  

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials
If there is a cure for cancer, Queen’s will have a role in it.
Dr. Janet Dancey, Director of CCTG and Professor, Department of Oncology

From precision medicine and immunotherapy, to symptom control trials, the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) at Queen’s is re-shaping the frontlines of the battle against cancer. The CCTG carries out investigator-initiated clinical trials featuring a diverse portfolio of therapeutic, supportive care, and prevention strategies in all age groups and cancer types. This research helps develop innovative therapies, advances understanding of cancer resistance, and reduces the burden of cancer treatment. The CCTG is one of three divisions at the Queen’s Cancer Research Institute

  • The Canadian Cancer Society recently invested $30 million in the CCTG.
  • CCTG is working to close the gap in rare cancer research.
  • Since 1980, CCTG has supported more than 600 cancer trials to test anti-cancer and supportive therapies worldwide, enrolling 100,000 patients from 40 countries.
  • Dr. Annette Hay, a senior investigator at CCTG, co-leads a project called ExCELLirate Canada, a national research platform for next generation cancer cell therapies funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).


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