March 1, 2019

UCalgary epidemiologist to help shape World Health Organization's cancer research agenda

Christine Friedenreich elected to chair scientific council of International Agency for Research on Cancer in France

Dr. Christine Friedenreich, PhD, one of Alberta’s leading cancer epidemiologists, will help shape the global agenda for cancer research. The cancer prevention researcher in the Department of Oncology at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) has been elected to chair the Scientific Council of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Headquartered in Lyon, France, IARC is an intergovernmental body within the World Health Organization (WHO) that acts as a global clearinghouse for cancer surveillance data and co-ordinates international research endeavours into the causes of cancer.

Comprised of representatives from 26 countries including Canada, the scientific council assists IARC leadership in the creation and review of its strategic plans, research programs and budgetary priorities to guide the work of 350 scientists, staff and trainees.

“It’s the most important centre for cancer research and cancer prevention anywhere in the world, and I am very honoured by this appointment. It’s a huge opportunity,” says Friedenreich, who is also the scientific director of Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research at CancerControl Alberta with Alberta Health Services, and the associate scientific director of the CSM’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

For Dr. Friedenreich, it’s a bit like coming home. In 1990, she trained in Lyon as a postdoctoral fellow in IARC’s European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, one of the world’s largest cohort studies of its kind. The study recruited 522,000 Europeans in 10 countries to investigate the relationships between diet, nutrition, lifestyle and the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases. She returned in 2004 as a visiting scientist and has been collaborating with IARC ever since.

In January 2018, Friedenreich was elected to the scientific council for a four-year term. She recently guided a five-year review of the Evidence Synthesis and Classification Section of IARC that produce the WHO’s Classification of Tumours, the IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, and the IARC Monographs, which are globally recognized publications that are the standard in the identification and classification of carcinogenic hazards.

“The scientific chair plays a key role in guiding the scientific governance of the agency,” says IARC director, Dr. Elisabete Weiderpass, PhD. “We are delighted to welcome Dr. Chrisitine Friedenreich as the new chair of the scientific council given our long-standing collaboration.”

Dr. Friedenreich is the second UCalgary faculty member in a leadership role at IARC. Dr. Stephen Robbins, PhD, a professor in the Department of Oncology who is also the scientific director of the Institute of Cancer Research at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, co-chairs the governing council at IARC on behalf of the Government of Canada.

“We are incredibly proud of Dr. Friedenreich’s appointment to chair the IARC Scientific Council,” says Dr. André Buret, PhD, interim vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary. “Her expertise in multidisciplinary research will be a significant asset as she helps to guide the scientific direction of the agency.”


Dr. Friedenreich, PhD, is the division head of Preventive Oncology in the Department of Oncology, an adjunct professor in the departments of Community Health Sciences and Oncology, and is a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute at the CSM.

Dr. Robbins, PhD, is an associate professor in the departments of Oncology and Biochemistry and Microbiology and is a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute at the CSM.