Health & Wellness

A Leap Forward in Cancer Care

A new Canadian cancer research network promises improved treatment

Photo: iStock/KatarzynaBialaslewicz.


The Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network, a long-awaited dream of the Terry Fox Research Institute, is about to become a reality following the announcement of a $150 million investment from the federal government.

The $300 million project will create partnerships between hospitals and universities already taking the lead in cancer research in Canada and includes the McGill University Goodman Cancer Research Centre and the Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal in Montreal, as well as the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre affiliated with the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. Ultimately, the network will include cancer care and research facilities in five regional groupings—British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada.

The funding from the federal government will be spread out over five years. The other half of the funding will come from partners across Canada including the Terry Fox Foundation.

The network will specialize in precision oncology, an innovation in cancer care in which treatment is determined by the genetic makeup of each patient and his or her specific cancer. Precision oncology relies on analyzing the genomes of past patients and crunching the data to learn what treatments align best with each patient’s genetic makeup.

The network aims to treat and analyze the genomes of 15,000 patients by 2023 and to amass a database of the molecular composition of cancer tumours across the country. The goal is more effective treatment with fewer side effects.

“On the road 39 years ago, Terry wrote in his journal that he wanted ‘to try the impossible to show that it can be done,’” Pam Damoff, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Health, said in a statement. “Today we keep our promise to Terry to continue his dream of a world without cancer. One day we will look back and recognize this as the moment we truly transformed cancer research in Canada and around the world, just like Terry did.”

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, one in four Canadians will die from cancer, with one in two being diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime. In 2017, 206,200 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer and about 80,800 died as a result. The most common cancers in Canada are lung, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer.