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2009 Research Chair Award Recipients

Cancer Imaging

Dr. Ralph DaCosta, Princess Margaret Hospital

Health Services

Dr. Nancy Baxter, St. Michael’s Hospital

Population Studies

Dr. Joanne Kotsopoulos, Women’s College Hospital

Experimental Therapeutics

Dr. Gregory Czarnota, Odette Cancer Centre (also Cancer Imaging)
Dr. Geoffrey Liu, Princess Margaret Hospital (also Population Studies)
Dr. Lillian Siu, Princess Margaret Hospital 

Applications were evaluated by the panel on the basis of scientific excellence and strategic alignment with the four research themes of Cancer Care Ontario’s scientist network program. The awards are for five years and are renewable for another three years.


Dr. Ralph DaCosta

Dr. Ralph DaCosta received his PhD from the Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto. His graduate research focused on the development and pioneering clinical application of advanced optical molecular imaging technologies for endoscopic diagnosis of early gastrointestinal cancers. This work contributed to major improvements in the accuracy of conventional diagnostic endoscopy. These continue to directly benefit endoscopic cancer screening strategies around the world.

Dr. DaCosta is an Assistant Scientist and Principal Investigator in the Division of Biophysics and Bioimaging, Ontario Cancer Institute, University Health Network (UHN). He is developing a comprehensive research program at UHN that focuses on accelerating the translation of these “bioimaging” capabilities directly into clinical practice. He also is a member of the Radiation Medicine Program (Princess Margaret Hospital) and the Spatio-Temporal Targeted and Amplification of Radiation Response (STTARR) Innovation Center at UHN.

Dr. DaCosta is one of Canada’s leading experts in the area of biophotonics. His ongoing contribution to the field of cancer imaging has been recognized by numerous awards and invited presentations at international meetings.

Dr. Nancy Baxter

Dr. Baxter is a colorectal surgeon and health services researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto / LiKaShing Knowledge Institute, with a cross appointment to the Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. Dr. Baxter holds a medical degree and a PhD in Clinical Epidemiology from the University of Toronto. She completed post graduate medical training at the University of Toronto and the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Baxter’s research interests include evaluating surgical treatment trends and treatment outcomes, the effectiveness of cancer screening, and the long-term consequences of cancer diagnosis and care for cancer survivors.

In addition to her academic achievements, Dr. Baxter has been a member of a number of committees that focus on surgical research and quality of care. She has also served on editorial boards and numerous peer review committees. In 2007 she was awarded the Bernie Langer Surgeon-Scientist Award.

Dr. Joanne Kotsopoulos

Dr. Kotsopoulos received her PhD from the University of Toronto, Department of Nutritional Sciences. She participated in an international effort to define novel strategies for the prevention, treatment and management of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, and led several complementary projects at the Women’s College Research Institute. Her doctoral thesis focused on identifying modifiers of breast and ovarian cancer risk among women with an inherited cancer risk. She studied biomarkers of DNA repair and oxidative stress, and investigated the usefulness of these markers to predict cancer status in women with BRCA mutations.

Dr. Kotsopoulos is a NCIC-sponsored postdoctoral research fellow at the Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School. As part of this internationally renowned research group, Dr. Kotsopoulos is investigating the roles and mechanisms of folate, caffeine and anthropometric measures (e.g., body mass index) in ovarian cancer development and progression among women from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and NHSII prospective cohort studies. Dr. Kotsopoulos recently led a study validating the use of tissue microarrays (TMAs) as an adjunct to epidemiologic studies. She used TMAs to explore pathologic features of ovarian cancers to assess the impact of known risk factors on disease status and prognosis.

Dr. Kotsopoulos plans to continue her investigation on the role of vitamin D and will continue to employ TMAs to identify potential ovarian cancer precursors and their risk factors. As a CCO Research Chair, she will begin a new body of work examining risk factors for women who have a strong family history and thus have a high risk of developing breast cancer, yet who do not carry a BRCA mutation.

Dr. Gregory Czarnota

Dr. Czarnota is a Clinician Scientist in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Imaging Research at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Radiation Oncology and Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. He completed a PhD and post-doctoral fellowship in Medical Biophysics, followed by a medical degree and radiation oncology fellowship, at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Czarnota's research program is aimed at using ultrasound to cure cancers. In one vein of research, his laboratory is using new methods in quantitative ultrasound imaging to monitor the efficacy of cancer treatments, which will permit ineffective treatments to be made more effective. In another research branch, his laboratory has developed new treatment in which anti-vascular ultrasound treatments make tumours 20 to 40 times more sensitive to radiation. That research has the potential to significantly improve the efficacy of radiation treatments and provides a new powerful way to treat cancer. Both of these research programs are entering  clinical evaluations.

Dr. Geoffrey Liu

Dr. Geoffrey Liu graduated from the University of Toronto with a BSc, MSc (Clinical Epidemiology) and MD. He completed post-doctoral training in internal medicine and medical oncology (University of Toronto, Dana Farber / Harvard Cancer Care) and molecular epidemiology (Harvard School of Public Health). He received multiple grant awards, including two Young Investigator Awards from The American Society of Clinical Oncology, for his research in esophageal and lung cancer. In 2008, Dr. Liu received the National Cancer Institute of Canada / Canadian Cancer Society William E. Rawls Prize, given to a young Canadian investigator whose work has led to important advances in cancer control within the past decade.

Dr. Liu holds the Alan B. Brown Chair in Molecular Genomics at Princess Margaret Hospital / Ontario Cancer Institute, University of Toronto, with cross appointments at Harvard (Boston) and Dalla Lana (Toronto) Schools of Public Health. He is co-Chair of the International Society of Pharmacoepidemiology, Pharmacogenetics / Molecular Epidemiology Working Group, a member of the NCIC CTG Correlative Science Committee, and several training programs in molecular pathology and radiation biology. A proponent of collaborative research, he is involved in large-scale studies of mesothelioma, esophageal and lung cancers. Dr. Liu has received several million dollars in research grants.

The CCO chair will allow Dr. Liu to perform feasibility studies and quality control testing of clinicoepidemiologic and outcomes information derived from patient, hospital and registry sources. These data will be critical to the adaptation of existing studies and development of new Ontario-based observational molecular outcome studies of cancer biomarkers. These observational studies will serve to complement existing and developing clinical-trial-based biospecimen repositories.

Dr. Lillian Siu

Dr. Lillian Siu is a staff physician in the Department of Medical Oncology and Hematology at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), and a professor at the University of Toronto. Dr. Siu is Director of the Phase I Program and Co-Director of the Robert and Maggie Bras and Family Drug Development Program at PMH.

Dr. Siu’s major research focus is in the area of new anticancer drug development, particularly with respect to phase I trials, and head and neck malignancies. She is principal investigator of many phase I, II and III trials supported by NCI, NCIC and the pharmaceutical industry. She is the principal investigator of a major award  from the NCI (US) that aims to expedite the access and evaluation of novel anti-cancer agents for patients, optimize clinical trials design of new agents, and characterize the molecular effects of new agents on their targets.

Dr. Siu has received numerous awards including the Elsie Winifred Crann Award at the University of Toronto in 2001. Dr. Siu has been a member of several international committees, and is currently the Track Chair for the 2009 ASCO Developmental Therapeutics – Molecular Therapeutics Scientific Program Subcommittee, the 2009–2010 Chair for ASCO Grants Selection Committee, and the current Neuroendocrine Tumor Task Force Chair in the Gastrointestinal Intergroup Scientific Steering Committee. Dr. Siu has a strong background in clinical trial methodology. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has been on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Last modified: Tue, Oct 25, 2011
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