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Population Oncology

The Population Oncology team at BC Cancer is responsible for managing population health services to support province-wide cancer control, and evaluation of the cancer system.

The team’s portfolio includes Screening, Prevention, Indigenous Cancer Control, Data & Analytics and Research.

The overall goal of Population Oncology is to reduce the number of people developing cancer and reduce the mortality from cancer. Our partnerships with internal and external stakeholders are integral to delivering effective, sustainable and appropriate services to the B.C. population.

Population Oncology is about partnerships. We partner with regional health authorities and primary care physicians to deliver the highest quality screening services. We partner with other PHSA services and programs and the Ministry of Health to provide data which allow us to monitor cancer trends and evaluate cancer services. We partner with First Nations Health Authority, Métis Nation British Columbia, and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres to promote and support delivery of culturally safe care to our Indigenous populations across the province.  We also partner with researchers throughout the world to create and synthesize knowledge about cancer prevention and early detection in order to provide evidence-based policy advice to support actions to reduce cancer risk and mortality.

Innovation is a key focus in our work in Population Oncology, but always with the view to providing the highest quality services and providing services with the highest value to British Columbians. We are custodians of the data which allow us to evaluate cancer prevention and screening initiatives, system performance, equity and to identify new ways to improve the cancer system and drive innovation. High quality data is the key to generate essential knowledge about the cancer system, from prevention through screening, diagnosis, treatment and palliation. 

Population Oncology is comprised of the following units. Please click on the links to learn more about the work of the individual teams.

For more than 30 years, Population Oncology has engaged in innovative local and international multi-disciplinary research to identify and improve our understanding of risk factors for cancer, best practices in early detection, and to identify underserved populations within British Columbia. Population Oncology research answers questions of key importance to the people of British Columbia, including research designed to identify measures which provide the most value for money.

In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on the generation of data on molecular markers (e.g. germline genetic variants, epigenetic marks, metabolites etc.) to improve our understanding of the mechanisms by which risk factors are associated with cancer so that targets for intervention can be identified. Risk factors of interest have included numerous occupational and environmental factors (e.g. nightshift work, UV radiation, pesticides) as well as lifestyle factors (e.g. obesity, tobacco, alcohol).

A major focus of research in Population Oncology has been on cervical cancer prevention and early detection, primarily HPV-based screening. HPV FOCAL, a landmark BC study, was conducted through BC Cancer and the findings continue to be used to evaluate the protection of HPV-based screening for cervical cancer prevention. Another key project is to examine and evaluate the impact of HPV vaccination on the prevalence of cervical dysplasia in BC. These projects are conducted in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, Women’s Health Research Institute and the BC Centre for Disease Control.

The Health Economics Support Unit (HESU) sits under the Population Oncology and the Clinical Portfolio. HESU supports the BC Cancer Executive regarding decisions for the adoption and management of therapies, interventions and technologies, by performing timely economic analyses of significant challenges facing BC Cancer, using the best available analysis and evidence.

About us
Dr. John Spinelli
Dr. John Spinelli, Vice President, Population Oncology, BC Cancer
Dr. John Spinelli is Vice President of Population Oncology at BC Cancer. In this role, he leads and manages population health services and research to support province-wide cancer control, including the three provincial screening programs, surveillance, prevention, data and analytics, Indigenous cancer control and population oncology research.

Dr. Spinelli is also a Distinguished Scientist at BC Cancer, Professor at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Simon Fraser University. Until recently, he was the Principal Investigator for the BC Generations Project, the largest health study ever conducted in British Columbia. From 2014-2016, he was the Canadian representative on the Scientific Council of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and is the author of over 300 peer reviewed publications.

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