Canada launches cancer biobanking project

20 June 2008

A new Canadian biobanking initiative has been launched by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, a federally- funded independent organization; the prospective cohort study aims to recruit 300,000 Canadians aged between 35 and 69, and follow them for the next 20-30 years while collating biological specimens including blood and urine, along with information on health and lifestyle factors. The intention is to recruit participants in a random fashion rather than calling for volunteers, although there will be a degree of self-selection since individuals invited to participate may not choose to do so.

The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project intends to investigate the role of genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors in the development of cancer, although the data will also be applicable for to the study of other common complex diseases. Phillip Branton, head of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institute of Cancer Research, reportedly said that the initiative is intended to fit in with other international biobanking studies and commented: "One of the biggest questions to be tackled is, who are the people first at risk for cancer as diets and lifestyles rapidly change in different societies?"(see Science news). The impact of public health screening and prevention programs will be assessed, and possible patterns of common factors among people who develop cancer sought. It is hoped that the project will be facilitated by the centralized public health systems in the Canadian provinces that are capable of handling large volumes of data.

In addition to $42 million funding from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the project is supported and funded by five key partner organizations: the BC Cancer Agency; the Alberta Cancer Board; Cancer Care Ontario and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research; Quebec’s CARTaGENE project (see previous news); and Cancer Care Nova Scotia with Dalhousie University. These regional groups have committed an additional total of $41 million in funding.

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