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Atlantic PATH – Learning more about cancer with the help of 30,000 Atlantic Canadians

Why do Atlantic Canadians have the highest rates of cancer in the country? Why do some people get cancer while others don’t? The Atlantic Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health (Atlantic PATH) hopes to answer these questions and others, all with the goal of finding new and better ways of preventing cancer, and finding it earlier when it’s easier to treat.

Since 2009, Atlantic PATH has been reaching out to Atlantic Canadians, between the ages of 35 and 69, asking them to become part of the largest study ever undertaken in Canada. The target is to have 30,000 Atlantic Canadians participate.

atlanticpathThe response from Nova Scotians and other Atlantic Canadians has been very positive. “We have reached our target of 30,000 participants and now we’re trying to ‘round out’ our sample by recruiting more people from diverse backgrounds such as Acadians,” said David Thompson, Director of Operations, Atlantic PATH. “Because this is a population-based study, we want to ensure that we are capturing the diversity of people living in Atlantic Canada.”

Atlantic PATH is also reaching out to all participants who did not visit an assessment centre when they first signed up, and asking them to take 10 minutes to visit a mobile assessment centre to provide a blood sample and a few physical measures.

About 50 per cent of Atlantic PATH participants completed a ‘do-it-yourself’ PATH Pack. Then, as requested, they took their physical measurements and mailed these in along with toe nail clippings and a blood spot sample. Others completed the questionnaire online.

“The information, blood spots, and toe nail samples we received from participants are all extremely valuable,” said David. “But getting a wet blood sample makes a participant’s contribution two, three, four and five times more valuable.”

Anyone who falls into this category and is willing to provide a wet blood sample should contact Atlantic PATH by phone at 1-877-285-7284 or by email at  

Although work continues to make the participant sample and data collected more complete, it is already a very rich source of information. Since Atlantic PATH and the larger national study, The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health, has collected data on health history, lifestyle, and the environment as well as biological samples including blood, urine and saliva, this database will enhance understanding and knowledge of cancer and all chronic diseases.

The value of the data will also increase over time, as participants are followed through their lifetime, enabling researchers to answer questions such as why Atlantic Canada has a higher rate of cancer than the rest of the country and why some people get cancer and others don’t. The answers to these questions and others will inform the development of new and better ways to prevent cancer and find it earlier when treatment is most effective.