Dr. Chris Booth with a medical team in India

Improving cancer care around the world

Dr. Chris Booth’s calls for “a common-sense revolution in oncology” now have a larger platform.

The Queen’s Health Sciences researcher and professor was inducted as a Fellow in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) on Oct. 20 in Ottawa.  

CAHS brings together health and biomedical scientists and scholars from across Canada to evaluate the country’s most complex health challenges. Dr. Booth’s honour reflects the ground-breaking impact his efforts are already having at home and abroad and, he says, will allow him to “engage with policy-makers so that we can design and implement cancer care systems that are more equitable and more patient centred.” 

The quality of cancer care – including access and patient-outcome inequities – is fundamental to Dr. Booth’s research. That focus is grounded in his clinical work as a medical oncologist as well as his work overseas. He believes patients – regardless of where they live – should have access to care that makes a difference. As a member of the Queen’s Global Oncology Program and the Cancer Working Group for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Essential Medicine List, his research is having a direct impact on the cancer medicines and treatments made available to people around the world. Dr. Booth’s work also supports prioritizing treatments that meaningfully improve survival and quality of life. That was the essence of Dr. Booth’s call for an oncology revolution – published in April with Queen’s colleague Dr. Bishal Gyawali. 

A global collaboration

Re-thinking the value of cancer care is another important part of that vision. Dr. Booth is a global leader in the movement to promote high-value care and reduce low-value unnecessary care. This work involves close collaboration with colleagues in India, Africa, and beyond.

“Our team works with patients, clinicians, and policy-makers to identify the most important cancer treatments that should be prioritized by ministries of health globally. The ultimate goal is to ensure that patients get access to the treatments that make a big difference – regardless of where they live,” says Dr. Booth, Canada Research Chair in Population Cancer Care.

A focus on quality care

Another focus of Dr. Booth’s research involves quality of care. His recent work has focussed on cancer care delivered in the last year of life where he works closely with colleagues in palliative care. In his clinical practice he has learned from his patients that decisions in this context require careful consideration of treatments benefits, side effects, quality of life, and how patients want to spend their time. 

“Engaging patients in the research ecosystem is hugely important because otherwise there is a risk that oncologists will lose the forest for the trees and forget about what really matters,” says Dr. Booth. “Cancer doctors can sometimes get overly focused on tumor measurements on a CT scan. Our patients remind us to step back and see the big picture about what people want which is ultimately to live longer and better lives.”

One of the ways that Dr. Booth is helping improve end-of-life care is through the development of a new community program called the Kingston Kerala Project. The idea for the program stems from his time on sabbatical in South India, where he collaborated with physicians and nurses at Pallium India – an NGO delivering palliative care in a vastly different health system. With lower resources and higher volumes of patients, Dr. Booth saw his colleagues using more creative ways to deliver care. The team in Kerala pioneered community-based volunteer delivery of palliative care. In this model, trained volunteers deliver much of the day-to-day visits, providing psychosocial support and assistance with domestic work that patients cannot do on their own – while visiting nurses and doctors attend to their medical needs. 

“We’re in the process of launching a similar program that will engage trained volunteers in community-based palliative care here in Kingston. This project is directly informed by lessons learned from our partners in Kerala,” says Dr. Booth.Dr. Booth plans to utilize his new status with CAHS to continue his push to improve cancer care across Canada and the globe. A Queen’s alumnus twice over (Artsci’97, Meds’01), Dr. Booth is honoured “to have the work we are doing be recognized by the Academy.

“More importantly,” he says, “it's a signal that work in global cancer care is becoming increasingly valued by the broader medical and scientific community.”

Watch Dr. Booth’s Cinq à Sept Research Talk.


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