Congratulations to Drs. Syed Sibte Raza Abidi, Jong Sung Kim, Ellen Sweeney, Gabriela Ilie, and Trevor Dummer on a successful New Frontiers in Research Fund’s Exploration grant.

The highly competitive funding is meant to support high-risk, high-reward and interdisciplinary research.

The NFRF funding is “especially meaningful because it encourages our scholars to push the boundaries of knowledge. This is how great discoveries are made,” says Alice Aiken, Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “It’s exciting to see our researchers harnessing machine learning, natural language processing and other cutting-edge techniques to reveal new truths that can improve our health and society.” (Source: DalNews,

Using Atlantic PATH data and toenail samples, this funding will allow the research team to expand on their work on arsenic-related cancer and machine learning.

Based on Canada’s geology, arsenic represents one of the most prevalent environmental carcinogens linked to skin, bladder, kidney, prostate, lung, breast, and cervical cancer. Half of Canadians are susceptible to develop cancer in their lifetime, with risk modified heavily by genetic susceptibility, behavioural factors and environmental exposure. While cancer risk prevention strategies have extensively focused on physiological and behavioural factors, environmental exposure as a cancer risk has not been well studied which has led to missed opportunities to reduce the risk of cancer through environmental population health programs, such as reducing chronic arsenic exposure by treating contaminated groundwater currently consumed by Canadians. Increased arsenic levels in human toenails have been detected in the Atlantic PATH cohort. Innovative population health interventions, focusing on predicting the susceptibility and type of arsenic induced cancer across Canada are urgently needed to mitigate the increasing prevalence of cancers in Canada.

This work will investigate environmental cancer biomarkers and develop innovative data-driven environmental cancer risk assessment tools to help reduce the incidence of cancers caused by arsenic exposure.

Please stay tuned for updates from this project!