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Queen’s health researcher receives inaugural Canadian Cancer Society Lifetime Contribution Prize

Joseph Pater, founding Director of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group, is recognized for a lifetime of work in cancer research.

[Photo of Joseph Pater]
Professor Emeritus Joseph Pater (Community Health and Epidemiology) is the recipient of the Canadian Cancer Society Lifetime Contribution Prize.

Joseph Pater, Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University, is the recipient of the Canadian Cancer Society Lifetime Contribution Prize, a new honour from the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). The award recognizes an esteemed Canadian investigator whose contributions, vision, and leadership have enhanced the Canadian cancer research landscape to significantly benefit the lives of people with cancer.

For over 45 years, Dr. Pater has been devoted to advancing clinical trial research aimed at improving the lives of cancer patients and to educating, training, and mentoring the next generation of students, fellows, and young investigators. Under his guidance, the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) at Queen’s University has become one of the most well-respected cancer clinical trials networks in the world, producing results that have accelerated the development of new treatments and established new standards of care worldwide.

“I am thrilled and humbled to be named the first recipient of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Lifetime Contribution Prize,” says Dr. Pater. “I am pleased that the selection committee has recognized my very collaborative contribution to establishing a network of Canadian research leadership who support the vital endeavour of finding the best treatments to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality, which is CCTG’s ongoing mission.”

Sometimes referred to as the “father” of cancer clinical trials research in Canada, Dr. Pater completed his medical training and accepted appointments in the Department of Medicine and, later, Oncology at Queen’s during a time when medical oncology was still in its infancy. In the early 1970s, Canadian oncologists began running cancer clinical trials with the support of the National Cancer Institute of Canada’s (NCIC) Epidemiology Unit. In 1980, NCIC established a formal collaborative research network, the NCIC Clinical Trials Group (now CCTG) and Dr. Pater was appointed as the inaugural director. Over the next 27 years, his leadership transformed the CCTG from a small national program at Queen’s to the largest collaborative cancer clinical trials network in Canada. The team became the first Canadian research network with a developmental drug program, allowing them to lead new investigational drug trials that directly led to new cancer drug approvals worldwide.

2021 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award
Recently, another Queen's researcher was recognized for their leadership in advancing cancer clinical trials research in Canada. Elizabeth Eisenhauer was presented with the 2021 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for her dedication to transforming the fields of cancer clinical trials and cancer drug delivery. She has also held national and international leadership roles, including as the lead of the Investigational New Drug Program (IND) of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group.

Dr. Pater has played an active role in the development, execution, and analysis of over 500 multi-centre Canadian and international cancer trials involving more than 85,000 patients around the world. His 240 publications span the areas of hematology, oncology, statistical methods, cost effectiveness, and quality of life, and have been cited over 24,000 times for their insights on new drug and therapy development and patient-centered outcome measures.

"Dr. Pater created the most impactful cancer clinical research program in Canada, in terms of generating research results that directly led to benefits for patients with cancer," says Janet Dancey, CCTG Director. "He is one of the most important individuals in Canadian cancer research, having built a collaborative network that has defined new standards of practice, improved patient outcomes, and that is recognized globally as a centre for excellence."

As a Queen’s professor and mentor, Dr. Pater also acted as head of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, taught clinical trials courses to dozens of cohorts of students, and supervised numerous graduate students and fellows, many of whom have become emerging leaders in their own right.

After retiring from the CCTG, Dr. Pater served a three-year term as Vice-President of Clinical and Translational Research at Cancer Care Ontario, during which time he helped develop a new research chairs program and facilitated planning for provincial investments in cancer research. He has sat on numerous research advisory boards and selection committees in Ontario, Canada, and around the globe.

For his countless accomplishments, Dr. Pater has received multiple awards and accolades, including the Canadian Cancer Society’s Award of Excellence in Medicine and Health (2001), National Cancer Institute of Canada’s Diamond Jubilee Award (2007) and the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance’s Award for Outstanding Achievements in Cancer Research (2015).

"We’re pleased to introduce the Lifetime Contribution Prize this year, which provide an opportunity to honour extraordinary Canadian researchers in a new way," says Stuart Edmonds, Executive Vice-President, Research & Advocacy, Canadian Cancer Society. "The work of Dr. Pater has had, and will continue to have, a tremendous impact on cancer research in Canada and on the lives of people affected by cancer."

For more information on the Canadian Cancer Society Lifetime Achievement Award, please visit the website.