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Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute: A vital step in enhancing cancer research 

The face of cancer research in Nova Scotia is forever changed with the launch of the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute in Halifax.

The new institute is named in honour of the late Beatrice Hunter, who bequeathed $12.5 million to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation for cancer research. “This is a legacy that lives on,” says Dr. Mark Bernstein, Director of the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute and Head of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Division at the IWK Health Centre.Beatrice

“The Institute,” he notes, “will enable us to more effectively coordinate our activities.  It will raise our profile in the community and provide a single entry point for researchers, potential donors and interested members of the public.  The Institute will also provide increased recognition for grant applicants and will develop the capacity to streamline grant submissions.”

Cancer Care Nova Scotia has been proud to play a leading role in  fostering cancer research in Nova Scotia. Indeed, that role began almost as soon as CCNS was established 10 years ago. “The launch of the Institute is the culmination of a decade of work and progress on the part of organizations like CCNS,” says Dr. Gerry Johnston, Associate Dean of Research at Dalhousie Medical School and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology.

Driving that progress was a clear vision: to build a vital cancer research community in Nova Scotia.  That vision is today a reality. In fact, Nova Scotia is now the fastest growing area for cancer research in the country.

“There is substantial evidence that Nova Scotians are living longer and better with cancer because of what has been learned and applied through cancer research. In applying what we have learned, we are also preventing some cancers before they begin, finding some cancers earlier, and actually curing many people with cancer,” says Dr. Carman Giacomantonio, Clinical Lead, Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Surgical Oncology Network.

“These are the reasons that Cancer Care Nova Scotia and its partners worked to create the Dalhousie Cancer Research Program. Now we are building on that success with the establishment of the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute,” he notes.

The numbers certainly attest to the strides that have been made by CCNS, its partners – and the many cancer researchers who now make Nova Scotia their home. As of June 2007, there were approximately 250 people doing cancer research in 50 labs at the Dalhousie Medical School. This includes 50 principal investigators – 25 with a primary focus on cancer – along with graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, technicians, and research assistants. 

Those researchers are supported by endowments that have grown from $2.3 million in 1999 to more than $26 million today. Together they generate more than $1.3 million per year, in perpetuity, for local cancer research.

The establishment of the Institute marks another important step forward in cancer research in Nova Scotia. And the journey continues.

“We will next concentrate on defining our existing strengths and opportunities.  This will enable us to develop a strategic plan, including the possible development of core laboratory and imaging facilities, and the possible co-location of a group of researchers in a new cancer facility,” says Dr. Bernstein.

We will also reach out to the world. “We could become a population lab for the world,” says Dr. Johnston. “We have the expertise and the knowledge – and the ability to share that with the world.”

This sharing of knowledge, he adds, would transform the region. Today and tomorrow.


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