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Areas of focus

Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) takes a leadership role in five areas of focus for cancer research. The broad spectrum of research covered by these five areas enables the creation and implementation of new modalities of therapy and to create the next generation of best practices. As a consequence, it provides an ideal environment for training and education.


Imaging scientists are developing and improving a range of imaging modalities, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), digital mammography, 3-D pathology and ultrasound, to visualize tumours for earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. We are also developing and validating new tools for characterizing tumour vascularity, and creating new devices and techniques for accurate, image-guided interventional surgery.

Molecular and cellular biology

Scientists in molecular and cellular biology are investigating the disregulated cellular growth at the molecular and genetic basis, which characterizes interruption of the cell's normal "biological clock," resulting in cancer. This work lends itself to other internationally recognized studies in the program that focus on angiogenesis, which in this context supports tumour growth. We are examining the mechanisms of how to target the neovasculature towards preventing abnormal cells from growing.

Radiation physics

Researchers in radiation physics are working to improve radiation therapy in order to:

  • define and diagnose tumours;
  • control their growth;
  • alleviate cancer symptoms; and
  • assess access and utilization of radiotherapy on a population level.

Major foci include the development of new ways of delivering radiotherapy to more efficiently reduce cancer and minimize side effects, as well as designing innovative methods for planning radiation treatments using positron emission tomography (PET) and computer-aided tomograph (CT).

Clinical trials and health services

SRI plays a leadership role across the province and Canada in health services research and clinical trials, due in part to our strong partnership with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). Scientists and clinicians team up to conduct clinical trials for new cancer therapies and diagnostic technologies, and a significant base of clinical epidemiologists conduct health services research to test the effectiveness of current and new treatments, analyze the contribution of non-biological factors and socio-economic factors in cure and palliation, and evaluate diagnostic technology through population-based studies.

Psychosocial and behaviour

Scientists within the Psychosocial and Behavioural Research Unit (PBRU) conduct psychosocial, behavioural and supportive care research. The unit focuses on:

  • narrative and arts-based methods;
  • quality of life assessment;
  • health services utilization and evaluation;
  • development and testing of psychosocial and educational interventions;
  • study of strategies to disseminate information; and
  • qualitative descriptions of patients’ experiences.

The PBRU is unique in that it concentrates on areas of research vital to the education and well-being of patients with cancer, but which are often neglected.