How Canadian data could help us understand cancer

Posted January 18, 2020

Conceptual motion blur picture of people crossing the street in a big city

What causes cancer and chronic diseases? The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP) is hoping to gather enough evidence to answer that question — at least, in about 30 years or so.

CPTP will give researchers information to understand how genetics, environment, lifestyle, and behaviour all influence and contribute to developing cancer and other chronic diseases. It has brought together six regional cohorts: BC Generations Project, Alberta’s Tomorrow Project, the Manitoba Tomorrow Project, Ontario Health Study, CARTaGENE, and the Atlantic Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health.

So far, the CPTP is Canada’s largest population health cohort. There are currently more than 320,000 people who have been recruited across nine provinces. That’s one in every 100 Canadians.

The reason longitudinal studies are necessary is not only to understand the major factors that lead to the development of chronic diseases, but also to understand information about people before they develop these diseases.

Some of the details researchers need to collect from participants? Blood, urine, saliva, physical measurements, as well details about their family history and lifestyle and consent to the administrative health records of every Canadian who’s interested for the next 60 years.

Health data sounds personal, but during a lecture earlier this week, principal investigator Dr. Philip Awadalla said, “People want their data used for research. They want their diseases cured.”