The Impact of Early Career Support - #4 in a series celebrating the 10th anniversary of BHCRI
Through the generosity of donor dollars to support cancer research, in the last five years the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute (BHCRI) has invested over $400,000 to support 13 new cancer research investigators and their research programs in Atlantic Canada. For five of these investigators, this BHCRI investment has been matched, bringing the total investment to $541,243. The impact of these funds cannot be measured in financial and economic impact alone. The true impact is much bigger and broader. These investments create awareness of the tremendous talent and expertise in Atlantic Canada, to the rest of the world. They provide mentoring and collaboration opportunities. These investments are tangible evidence of the confidence that Atlantic institutions have in our young researchers and, in turn, bolster confidence within these new investigators.
For grant recipient Dr. Jeanette Boudreau, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Dalhousie, the BHCRI New Investigator award was one of the first independent grants she received as a principal investigator. Receiving this award helped her launch her program and establish research protocols and tools. “The New Investigator award was very important in helping me to establish several aspects of my research program” says Dr. Boudreau. “One of the major contributions that the NI award made was in allowing me to establish a bank of healthy human donor immune cells. In addition, we leveraged this blood bank to obtain additional funding for further projects.” Dr. Boudreau's innovative research holds the promise of harnessing one type of immune cell to advance the use of immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer. Since receiving the new investigator award in 2016, Dr. Boudreau has gone on to receive grants from several national funding organizations, which combined will provide over $900,000 to further her cancer research program.
As a new faculty member in the School of Nursing at the University of New Brunswick, Dr. David Busolo is a researcher motivated to finding better ways to allow individuals new to Canada to obtain appropriate and timely cancer care. His new investigator award is helping to identify barriers to cancer screening programs for new immigrants in New Brunswick. Findings from this project will inform decision making at both the clinical and regulatory (government) levels. “This is the first study of a program of research that is meant to advance cancer prevention and cancer care for immigrants and refugees’ population in New Brunswick” says Dr. Busolo, “and eventually in Canada.” “We have used this new investigator award to hire a master’s student to conduct interviews and focus groups. From this first study, more targeted population health research and program development will ensue.”
At Memorial University, Dr. Sheila Garland’s New Investigator award allowed her to collect pilot data and test her protocol before submitting an application to CIHR, which was subsequently successful. “The New Investigator grant allowed me to also engage a masters and an undergraduate student in the process” says Garland. “My CRTP [a BHCRI program] funded trainee is also working on this project”. Dr. Garland’s research is examining the impact of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia in women with breast cancer. Perceived cognitive impairment and insomnia are two side effects of cancer not often thought about yet affect approximately 75% of cancer patients. The research Dr. Garland is conducting today will potentially lead to more treatment options to address these two consequences.
The financial impact of the new investigator awards is only now beginning to be felt. These 13 award recipients have now received over $2.5M in cancer research grant support, a six-fold return on investment. Additionally, each new investigator has contributed to the scientific body of knowledge through publications in peer-reviewed journals and has had an impact on provincial economies by hiring and training highly-qualified personnel that, in turn, contribute to society.
BHCRI and those supporting this funding program puts us in the privileged position of helping to support and mentor the next generation of cancer researchers that are already forging new insights into all aspects of cancer.
Although BHCRI’s investment of donor contributions can be measured in financial and economic returns, perhaps it is best to recognize the less tangible but an equally important ‘return on investment’ that is the creation of strong and innovative foundations on which to build our future cancer control strategies. Investment in people is the proven approach that will yield new insights and add to the steady improvement in cancer prevention and treatment outcomes.
For a complete list of award recipients, visit our website at: https://bhcri.ca/award-recipients
BHCRI partners who contribute to the New Investigator Awards include:
Harvey Graham Cancer Research Endowment