Dr. Philip Awadalla
National Scientific Director, Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health
Dr. John McLaughlin
Executive Director, Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health
Personalized medicine has tremendous potential to improve patient care by tailoring medical interventions to an individual’s unique genetic makeup and life history. Yet, the implementation of personalized medicine programs is challenging as it requires high-quality data collected from a large group of people to capture the complex factors that shape an individual’s health trajectory. In Canada, the promise of personalized medicine is within reach through the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health (CanPath).
CanPath collects detailed information from one in every 100 Canadians to learn more about how biology, behaviours, and environmental exposures influence the development of chronic diseases and cancer. Over the past decade, CanPath has collected data and biological samples from more than 330,000 volunteer Canadians, making the study a valuable living population laboratory and the largest health data collection of its kind in the nation’s history.
CanPath, which has been designed to follow participants for five decades, provides a national platform for made-in-Canada health solutions that will benefit Canadians today and in the future. Never before was this more clearly demonstrated than when CanPath data and biological samples enabled researchers to study the factors that affect an individual’s susceptibility and response to COVID-19 infection, as well as the efficacy of vaccines. Understanding how an individual’s genetics, lifestyle, and environment shape vulnerability to disease will only become more pressing in the future with increased population aging and the health threats posed by climate change.
The national CanPath study is a partnership of seven regional cohorts that, together, span all 10 provinces: the BC Generations Project, Alberta’s Tomorrow Project, Healthy Future Sask, the Manitoba Tomorrow Project, the Ontario Health Study, CARTaGENE (Quebec), and Atlantic PATH.
A unique Canadian resource to enable early disease detection and prevention
One of the most exciting applications of personalized medicine is the potential to identify people at risk of developing a disease years before they’re in a doctor’s office needing treatment. As CanPath follows people over decades, some participants who provided a biological sample will develop a disease. Using the samples collected before people develop a disease, scientists can look for genetic and molecular markers that suggest whether someone might be at a greater risk of disease, thereby enabling earlier and more targeted interventions.
Understanding the health impacts of climate change
Climate change will pose one of the largest threats to our health and our planet in the years to come. With its broad collection of data spanning decades, CanPath offers scientists a chance to understand how different people might be vulnerable to the impacts of a changing environment today and to predict how people will respond to a changing climate in the future. Already, CanPath has enabled Canadian researchers to discover how a collection of environmental factors such as air pollution and neighbourhood walkability, collectively known as our personal exposome, interact with our underlying biology to influence health outcomes. Personalized medicine is a promise for tomorrow that CanPath scientists are delivering on today. It is clear that the health and well-being of Canadians can be improved by tailoring prevention and treatment methods to an individual’s needs.