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Ethical Review of Research at the British Columbia Cancer Agency

by the

University of British Columbia – British Columbia Cancer Agency

Research Ethics Board  (UBC BCCA REB)


The development of better cancer treatments and improvements in cancer care & control more broadly rely on the acquisition of new knowledge related to cancer biology, the experiences of cancer patients and their families, and knowledge about the effects of cancer and new interventions on society, including costs and benefits accruing to the population as a whole. Such knowledge is generated through research. The British Columbia Cancer Agency (BCCA) is committed to performing cancer research according to the continuously evolving highest ethical and scientific standards practiced throughout the world. All research at BCCA involving humans or material & information derived from humans must be reviewed and approved by the UBC BCCA Research Ethics Board before the project can be activated. The UBC BCCA REB is comprised of members who among them pool extensive experience and knowledge in scientific investigations, cancer research, the experience of cancer patients and the ethical issues raised by research involving humans.

In all cases, the REB approval applies to research ethics isssues only.  The ethics approval does not obligate an institution or any of its departments to proceed with activation of the research.  Anyone conducting research, behavioural or otherwise, at the BC Cancer Agency, must make sure they obtain approval from any BCCA Department whose resources are affected by the conduct of the study and to identify and ensure that institutional policies such as those related to conflict of interest and privacy protection are followed and that resource impacts from the study are properly negotiated.  The Principal Investigator is responsible for identifying and meeting those requirements.

The UBC BCCA REB's membership and procedures fully conform to the current requirements of the bodies regulating research ethics boards in Canada and North America including the following:

Prior to the formation of the UBC BCCA REB in May 2003 the ethical review of clinical research at BCCA was performed over the previous 20 years at different times by various combinations of a Clinical Investigations Committee, internal Tumor Group review mechanisms and Scientific Evaluation of Research Committees (SERCs) in addition to submission of proposals to the University of British Columbia Office of Research Services affiliated REB. In aggregate, these review processes have always exceeded the requirements of the regulatory bodies of Canada and the United States for ethical and scientific review of clinical research.

The UBC BCCA REB is one of six UBC affiliated Research Ethics Boards for research involving human participants;

  • UBC BC Cancer Agency REB (BCCA)
  • UBC Providence (PHC),
  • UBC Children's & Women's (C&W)
  • UBC Clinical REB (UBC CREB),
  • UBC Behavioural REBs (UBC BREB)
  • UBC Behavioural (Okanagan) (UBC BREB-O)

The UBC's affiliated REB’s function under the auspices of the UBC Office of Research Services.  UBC affiliated Research Ethics Boards are required to comply with the following UBC policies;

The UBC REBs report to the UBC, Vice-President Research for regulatory oversight and in the case of the BC Cancer Agency Research Ethics Board administratively to the BC Cancer Agency, Vice President Management & Operations and BC Cancer Agency President. The UBC REBs review and approve all research that is conducted at UBC, by UBC faculty, or under the auspices of UBC.

The UBC BCCA REB functions in accordance with the UBC BCCA REB Terms of Reference which are posted on the BCCA website:

The UBC BCCA REB reviews clinical, epidemiological and behavioural adult oncology research projects, including basic science projects that use human materials. Researchers at BCCA, or non-BCCA researchers who conduct a research project only at BCCA, must submit "clinical" research projects to the UBC BCCA REB and have the additional option of submitting "behavioural" research projects to the UBC Behavioural REB. Projects submitted to the BCCA REB must be submitted by a principal investigator who has an appointment or affiliation with the BC Cancer Agency and the project must be approved by a BCCA Department Head prior to submission to the UBC BCCA REB.

Cancer related projects may also from time to time be conducted solely within other BC Health Authorities, which may have their own functioning REBs and ethical review processes; or, there may be cross-over projects involving cancer related questions that affect cancer patients registered with BCCA. In these circumstances, the UBC BCCA communicates regularly with other regional and provincial REBs regarding issues of primary oversight and the roles of other Boards involved in cross-over projects (i.e., the Board of Record agreement amongst the six UBC REBs, and the Harmonized Review for Multi-jurisdictional studies that UBC has entered into written agreements with: Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Saskatchewan and the University of Victoria.

On April 3, 2006 the UBC BCCA REB implemented an all-electronic secure internet based system called Researcher Information Services (RISe) for the submission and review of all research projects requiring ethics review. RISe is managed by the UBC Office of Research Services and is utilized by the UBC affiliated REBs.  This platform is also in use (under different names) at other REBs in Canada and several Universities in the U.S.

The policies and approvals of the UBC BCCA REB are fully acceptable to the entire range of cancer research sponsors including the following:

Continuing Review: The UBC Office of Research Services Continuing Review Manager conducts internal reviews of randomly selected research projects that have been approved by any one of the UBC affiliated REBs which is conducted at one or more institutions under that REB's jurisdiction and auspices of the UBC Office of Research Services.

Annual Reports: The UBC BCCA REB provides an annual report to both the UBC VP Research and the BCCA president. These are also available on the BCCA website .

The UBC BCCA REB is firmly committed to encouraging excellent cancer research at BCCA by ensuring that such research is conducted in an ethically acceptable and scientifically sound manner. Its members and chair are readily available to the staff of BCCA across all its centers and the BCCA Communities Oncology Program. Through provision of continuous feedback to researchers, development of regularly updated educational and guidance documents and individual member's immersion in the active research being conducted every day at BCCA, the UBC BCCA REB plays a central role in the Agency's pursuit of the new knowledge that is leading to better and more effective cancer control.

Submission Info

Last Update:  January 10, 2014