Timothy Whelan, a McMaster University clinical researcher who has made advances in breast cancer therapies, is being honoured by the Canadian Cancer Society.

Whelan is the 2019 recipient of the O. Harold Warwick Prize for outstanding achievements in cancer control research.

"My team and I have been involved in radiation research for over 25 years, so it's a tremendous honour to be selected for this award," said Whelan, professor of the Department of Oncology at McMaster and radiation oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre of Hamilton Health Sciences. "Radiation clinical trials can be challenging because they can often take up to 10 years, so that's a considerable amount of time and effort. We've had a lot of successes and changed clinical practice, and it's wonderful to be recognized."

Whelan holds a Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer Research. He's the associate chair of research in the Department of Oncology at McMaster. He's also a scientist with the Escarpment Cancer Research Institute of McMaster and the Juravinski Cancer Centre.

Whelan is considered a world leader in the field of radiation therapy for breast cancer. He led game-changing studies which showed a shorter course of radiation is as safe and effective as a longer course, and a new radiation strategy that offers benefits in reducing the risk of disease recurrence and improving survival.

His studies have resulted in these new treatment strategies being adopted worldwide as the new standard of care, improving care for people with breast cancer and helping them live longer and fuller lives.

Whelan says clinical research is a team effort, and as such, he dedicates this award to the many people who have worked alongside him including his colleagues at the Juravinski Cancer Centre and the Ontario Clinical Oncology Group, research partners across Canada that include radiation oncologists, surgeons and pathologists, as well as patients participating in studies and their families.

"I've only been successful because of the incredible and supportive team around me," Whelan said. "There are research partners locally, nationally and internationally who are committed to evaluating new radiation techniques with an evidence-based approach."

Paul O'Byrne, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, said: "Dr. Timothy Whelan is a tremendous asset to Canadian cancer research and the outcomes of his research have had global impact. He has distinguished himself as one of our country's leading breast radiation oncologists. His substantial and impressive contributions and impact on cancer control merit the O. Harold Warwick Prize."

The O. Harold Warwick Prize comes with a $20,000 contribution to the recipient's research program. Whelan is being presented with the prize today at an awards ceremony hosted by the Canadian Cancer Society in Toronto.

Judy Bray, vice president of research at the Canadian Cancer Society said: "Today's winners have shown tremendous dedication to the cancer cause. Their work has had significant impact on both the cancer research community and the lives of people affected by cancer. It is thanks to research advancements made by scientists like our award recipients that the overall cancer survival rate has increased from 55 per cent in the early 1990s to 63 per cent today, and I have no doubt we will continue to see progress as a result of their efforts."

Read the Brighter World profile on Whelan here.


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