What do you get when you combine a comedian, a magician, a radio show host, and a chef? A group of cancer survivors and caregivers celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day at the opening of a unique new research centre at University Health Network (UHN), the first of its kind in Canada.

ELLICSR room 1 image"Our goal is to improve the cancer experience by exploring novel ways to learn from expert survivors, develop new survivorship communities and study how we can engage, empower and activate cancer survivors to adopt healthier behaviours that minimize the negative impact of cancer and its treatment," says Pamela Catton, radiation oncologist and Medical Director of the Cancer Survivorship Program at Princess Margaret Hospital, and the new centre's director.

"Survivors face many challenges, including long-term effects of their treatment. We must hear the voice of cancer survivors, understand what is important to them and work with them to find innovative ways to predict, prevent and manage their health challenges," says Dr. Catton.

The 12,000-square-foot research centre located at Toronto General Hospital is called the Electronic Living Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Cancer Survivorship Research (ELLICSR). It is the name of a $3.7 million grant funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Research Fund, SIMS, The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, the Quilt Project, The Weekend to End Breast Cancer and the Butterfield-Drew Cancer Survivorship Chair. There were two industry partners, Desire2learn and Klick Communications, as well as two survivorship community partners, Willow and Wellspring.

ELLICSR room 2 image"This is a unique area of interdisciplinary research we were keen to support as communities of cancer survivors continue to grow," says Dr. Eliot Phillipson, President & CEO, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). "Providing researchers with the tools they need to undertake leading-edge research is what the CFI is all about."

ELLICSR has developed a partnership with the Al Hertz Centre for Supportive and Palliative Care and the Princess Margaret Cancer Survivorship Program. These partners have developed a network called the Collaborative Centre for Health Wellness and Cancer Survivorship and will work in collaboration with several community partners including Willow, Wellspring and Gilda's Club. This live and on-line connectivity will be managed through the ELLICSR infrastructure, and allows its partners to leverage their combined resources to kick start ELLICSR research operations.

ELLICSR provides a spacious, calm, supportive community centre environment with teaching and self-management areas including a full kitchen, a community resource space, simulated clinic rooms and an exercise facility. It is fully wired to support virtual programming, commu­nity connections and global collabora­tions.

The opening will be celebrated with a community event on National Cancer Survivors Day, Sunday, June 6 from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Cancer patients, survivors, family and friends are all welcome. The event includes Irwin Barker, (award winning performer and comedy writer on the Rick Mercer Report), Andy Barrie (former host of CBC Radio's Metro Morning), Julie Eng (Executive Director of Magicana.com), Kids Corner (hands-on activities for kids with Noogieland@PMH supported by Gilda's Club), Jennifer Decorte (cancer survivor, chef and restaurant owner), and much more.​

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