May 13, 2016

OICR researcher receives $2 million in federal funding to study metabolic conditions that can lead to cancer

The OHS Team

Dr. Philip Awadalla and the Ontario Health Study team.

Chronic health conditions place a heavy burden on patients and their families, and cost the healthcare system and the Canadian economy staggering amounts. Chronic diseases were behind 67 per cent of total direct costs in health care and 60 per cent of total indirect costs as a result of early death, loss of productivity and foregone income, according to a 2006 study by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Globally, non-communicable disease (NCD) was made a priority by the World Health Organization, leading to the formation of the NCD Alliance and the Sharjah Declaration, which aims to reduce the global burden of NCDs.

To develop better ways to prevent and treat chronic conditions, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) recently announced new funding for eight teams to study the environmental and genetic factors behind chronic diseases. OICR’s Dr. Philip Awadalla, a Senior Investigator in OICR’s Informatics and Bio-computing Program and Principal Investigator of the Ontario Health Study (OHS), will lead a Pan-Canadian team that will study the link between environmental exposures, genomes and chronic conditions such as metabolic syndrome and cancer.

“By studying these metabolic conditions we can come up with improved methods to prevent and treat them, thereby helping prevent the development of associated chronic diseases” – Dr. Awadalla

Dr. Awadalla’s team will be looking at a number of metabolic syndromes such as obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance. These health issues are common in aging adults and are considered to be both risk and causal factors behind cancer and other chronic diseases. The project will make use of data and samples collected by the OHS, which is part of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP).

“By studying these metabolic conditions we can come up with improved methods to prevent and treat them, thereby helping prevent the development of associated chronic diseases,” explains Dr. Awadalla. “Using the vast data and samples of the Ontario Health Study and the CPTP will allow us to research this issue on a scale that has never been done before. This will allow us to gain a more-detailed understanding of the interplay between factors that lead to metabolic conditions.”

Dr. Awadalla will serve as Principal Investigator of the project and is joined by two Co-Investigators based in Vancouver, Dr. Trevor Dummer from the Centre of Excellence in Cancer Prevention at the University of British Columbia and Dr. John Spinelli of the BC Cancer Agency. The team will receive $2 million over five years and has partnered with Illumina to assist with genome sequencing, and also Environment Canada and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.

Read the News release
$2 million in new funding from Canadian Institutes of Health Research will help Ontario team study metabolic syndromes
May 2, 2016