World-class cancer research right next door

$10-million campaign to lead to better diagnosis, treatment and recruitment

Darrell Cole
Published on July 15, 2014
Dr. Stephen Lewis (right) of the Atlantic Cancer Institute in Moncton talks to Amherst Rotary Club president Angela Bourgeois and former MP and cancer survivor Bill Casey. Lewis spoke to Rotarians about the cancer institute’s $10-million fundraising campaign that began in May.
Darrell Cole -

Moncton's Atlantic Cancer Research Institute has kicked off a $10-million campaign that will lead to better detection and treatment as well as help attrack world-class researchers.

AMHERST – World-class cancer research is taking place less than an hour away, but most people in Cumberland County have no idea it’s taking place.

Speaking to members of the Amherst Rotary Club on Monday, Dr. Stephen Lewis said the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute has experienced a lot of success over the last decade and recently launched a new campaign that will carry the organization forward as it strives to develop better diagnosis and treatment of a disease that touches everyone.

“We need the support of the community to provide us with the funding to do the research that we want to do,” Lewis said. “A lot of the responsibility falls on the research scientists writing grant proposals for their research ideas, but we also depend on the community to support our activities to provide our scientists with the tools they need.”

The Atlantic Canada Research Institute is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 and housed at the Dr. Georges Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton. It has become a centre of excellence in cancer research with scientists working with partners around the globe to discover the genetic origins of cancer and pursuing three main areas of development including early detection, enhanced diagnosis and targeted treatment.

In May, the institute launched its $10-million Cancer Research Saves Lives Campaign. The focus of the campaign is to raise awareness and attract support for cancer research in Atlantic Canada.

Half the campaign is coming from the community with the remaining $5 million coming from research grant funding raised by the institute’s researchers.

The campaign is being chaired by Moncton-area businesswoman Aldea Landry and Lee Bragg, the CEO of Eastlink. Former NHL great Bobby Orr is the honourary chairman.

Lewis said it’s well known that Atlantic Canada has the highest incidence of cancer in Canada. In fact, he added, one in three Atlantic Canadians will be touched by cancer, something that is very troubling to researchers at the institute that is privately-run but has strong links with the health-care field and the University of Moncton.

“Cancer is a disease that has had an effect on everyone’s life, and even though we’ve had huge strides in our advancements in cancer treatment and diagnosis there are still too many people succumbing to this disease,” he said. “There’s a lot more we need to do as researchers to understand what is happening so we can provide physicians with better tools to treat the disease and better tools to diagnose it earlier.”

Funds from the campaign will lead to research on early detection and diagnosis as well as improved treatment, but it will also help the institute retain and recruit top-notch researchers.

Community support is also vital because the institute and the Atlantic region in general don’t get the funding support from the federal government that larger institutions in Quebec and Ontario receive.

“We really believe that with the tools we have and talented people we can really make a difference in the world of cancer research,” he said. “We have many bright minds here in Atlantic Canada. I’ve seen many good friends move away and never come back, but if we can attract the brightest minds to come back home and do the types of research they want to do we’ll build our community and make it much stronger.”

Because of the community’s support, Lewis said, the institute’s scientists are not limited by the tools they have at their disposal. Their only limit is their imagination to ask the questions they want to ask, how the disease begins, how they an intervene and how they can come up with better ways to treat it.

He said the campaign is about finding a cure and improving patient outcomes through research. The institute is conducting cutting edge research that will contribute to the global effort against cancer.

“The solutions always come from research. A better understanding of how it happens and what it does to the body have allowed us to come up with better therapeutics and certainly if we’re going to make more gains against this disease we need more research that leads to better tools and better diagnostics.”

Twitter: @ADNdarrell