Preventing cancer and chronic disease: A cohort that links Alberta’s Tomorrow Project with the Alberta Cancer Research Biobank

Project Lead: Paula Robson, University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences

An innovative project could build a bridge between two major provincial biobanks to improve personalized care.

Alberta’s Tomorrow Project (ATP) is a research platform to support investigations looking into the prevention of cancer and chronic disease. ATP includes a large prospective cohort of
approximately 55,000 adult Albertans who had no history of cancer when they joined the study.

Over time, some of these participants have developed cancer. ATP collected blood samples from around 30,000 of these participants when they joined, previous to their cancer diagnosis.

The Alberta Cancer Research Biobank (ACRB) collects blood samples and clinical information
from patients who have been recently diagnosed with cancer, identifying, contacting and collecting information from these patients in a timely and standardized manner. Currently the ACRB has samples and information from approximately 26,000 Albertans.


Through an exploratory one-year study, the team aims to identify participants in ATP who have developed cancer and have also donated samples to the ACRB. These patients have a record of pre- and post-diagnosis blood samples, as well as tumour tissue, which will facilitate biomarker analyses that will be complemented will comprehensive data about demographic, lifestyle and other related factors already collected by ATP.

The goal is to pave the way for a longer-term initiative for targeted recruitment of ATP participants recently diagnosed with cancer into the ACRB. Setting up the infrastructure to identify this specialized cohort is the first step, to then allow for the identification of early-detection biomarkers for specific groups, and study targeted research questions to support precision health, such as, “do patients with better lifestyle habits present with earlier-stage breast cancer?”

Having dedicated infrastructure and data available on the patients housed within these two platforms will support grant applications for novel use of the data and bio-samples, leveraging existing funding provided to ATP and ACRB.