We are a national and world leader in research and clinical care and access state-of-the-art technology and facilities, including the Cross Cancer Institute, which is the most advanced centre in the world for cancer molecular imaging. We provide both didactic and operative training in all of the major surgical subspecialties at high-volume sites.


The Department of Surgery has created a new tool, Thoracic Competency Assessment Tool Invasive Staging, to help train the next generation of thoracic surgeons.

There is a large clinical trial underway on the next evolution of imaging for neuroendocrine tumours using 68Gallium. This new marker is more sensitive and less costly than previous scans, and this will likely change the future treatment of neuroendocrine tumours.

Researchers have started an investigator-initiated trial (IIT) of the drug Imatinib to target thyroid cancer cells. This University of Alberta innovation allows the cells to take up radioactive iodine, which can slow or stop the cancer spreading from the thyroid to the lymph nodes, lungs, and bones. It would be an entirely new aspect of therapy; it was previously unknown which molecule specifically makes thyroid cancers aggressive.

In conjunction with the world-renowned Phase I Program of the Cross Cancer Institute Clinical Trial Unit, surgeons and oncologists work together to drive progress in the treatment of gynecologic, endocrine, urologic, and gastrointestinal tumours. Clinical trials examine targeted therapies for thyroid cancer and for bladder cancer.

Strong multi-disciplinary collaborations are forged through joint investigations into advances in surgical care and into adjuvant therapies. For example, the use of Lutetium therapy was pioneered at the Cross Cancer Institute through the work of a multi-disciplinary group, which uses innovative clinical paradigms and basic benchtop research to better understand the processes of tumour growth and cell senescence, which allow tumours to evade chemotherapy.


The Surgical Oncology Program provides both didactic and operative training for medical oncology and radiation oncology residents in all of the major surgical subspecialties, including head and neck oncology, thoracic, breast, upper gastrointestinal, colorectal, and sarcoma surgery. Surgical residents rotate through the CCI, combining clinical care with research.

The Experimental Oncology Division at the institute offers a training component, which allows for the recognition of the value of translational research. Both surgical undergraduates and residents are exposed to the latest in endoscopic and robotic surgical techniques in partnership with the Ray Rajotte Surgical Medical Research Institute.

For more junior trainees, Dr. Jonathan White has been a pioneer and world leader in the development of peer-to-peer and non-didactic methods of instruction for medical students and surgical trainees. His ‘Surgery 101’ website provides videos and notes, which have been viewed more than five million times worldwide. These training resources cover numerous surgical topics, including diagnosing, staging and treating cancers.

For established surgeons, Continuous Professional Development is supported through ongoing program development in surgical teaching and physician feedback.

Facilities and Technolog

The University of Alberta Hospital, the CCI, and other hospitals in the Edmonton region represent tertiary and quaternary referral centres for Northern Alberta and Western Canada.

As a result, complex surgical procedures, including breast oncoplastics, minimally invasive thoracic surgery, gastrointestinal surgery, and procedures for neuroendocrine tumours and head and neck cancers can be performed at specialized high-volume sites, which allow specialization of care and the integration of research with clinical delivery. The Royal Alexandra Hospital, University of Alberta Hospital, and Grey Nuns Community Hospital operating rooms are all equipped with new-generation technology to perform laparoscopic and robotic procedures on gynecologic and urologic cancer patients.

The innovative hybrid imaging scanner (PET-MRI) combines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positon emission tomography (PET). In partnership with the Cancer Strategic Clinical Network, the Division of Surgical Oncology has contributed to the development of clinical care pathways based on data-driven physician feedback and quality initiatives.


Improving patient outcomes has also driven a province-wide effort by the Department of Gynecological Oncology to implement enhanced recovery after surgery protocols, resulting in patients leaving hospital sooner and with fewer complications.


Divisional Director Dr. Todd McMullen