For the past few months, COVID-19 has been occupying public and media space, which has the effect of relegating the cause of cancer to the backburner. And yet, cancer remains the leading cause of death in Canada.

The Cancer Research Society is tirelessly pursuing its mission to outsmart cancer, despite the context of the pandemic, and therefore wishes to bring cancer research back to the forefront of our priorities. It is important to do so for patients fighting cancer, for their families, but also for the researchers who are working so hard. For all these people, cancer is at the heart of their lives.

We are very proud this year to award 70 new grants worth a total of $8.8 million to some of the most promising research projects in the field. We must continue our efforts to fund even more research projects dedicated to the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer.

Our President and Chief Executive Officer, Manon Pepin, discusses this subject in greater detail in an open letter written in collaboration with Dr. Mark Basik, Chairman of the Scientific Affairs Committee (SAC) of the Cancer Research Society. You can read this open letter below.

Let's not forget about cancer: the key lies in research

By Manon Pepin, President and Chief Executive Officer, the Cancer Research Society

Co-signer: Dr. Mark Basik, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cancer Research Society, surgical oncologist at the Segal Cancer Centre and the Herbert Black Professor of Surgical Oncology at McGill University

As tragic as it is, the health crisis created by COVID-19 should not cause us to lose sight of the importance of continuing our collective fight against cancer.

As our recent campaign reminds us, cancer does not take a break. And the key to dealing with this disease remains research.

Cancer will strike one in two Canadians during their lifetime and remains the leading cause of death in the country1. In 2020, it is predicted that 225,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and 83,300 will die from it2. These estimates are higher than those reported for 2019 taking into account population growth and aging.

One of the most devastating and insidious effects of COVID-19 would be to make us forget the need to continue funding cancer research. The exceptional mobilization around the pandemic must not be at the expense of other priority areas of medicine.

Recently, several oncology experts and patient care organizations have reported alarming information about the effects of the pandemic on the healthcare system. They have reported significant delays in the detection and management of people with cancer.

In addition, many research projects have been slowed or delayed due to laboratory closures during the first wave of the pandemic.

All indications are that the next few years will be very difficult for cancer research, as government grants normally allocated to this disease have been redirected to projects related to COVID-19.

A non-profit organization such as the Cancer Research Society, which helps advance research, is facing a considerable drop in revenue over the next few years.

However, the proof is clear: advances in cancer prevention, detection and treatment begin with research. Remarkable progress has been achieved over the years. For certain types of cancer, the survival rate exceeds 70, 80, and sometimes even more than 90%. More people now survive cancer than die from it. These advances are made possible by scientific breakthroughs.

For example, the Cancer Research Society funds several projects whose goal is to better understand the links between environmental causes and cancer, all this with the intention of increasing prevention.

This is why it is crucial to maintain funding for research teams. It is essential that they do not interrupt their current projects and stop pursuing discoveries.

To this end, the Cancer Research Society, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, has drawn on its reserve fund this year to maintain funding for research projects. This was made possible thanks to the great generosity of the thousands of donors, institutional and corporate partners as well as volunteers who have supported us over the past few years.

However, as this pandemic is likely to afflict us for a long time to come, more than ever, we need donations from individuals and corporations to support innovative projects that will have an impact on cancer research.

Today's focus on research is opening the door to saving lives.

  1. Advisory Committee on Canadian Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics, 2019.
  2. Statistics Canada