Kerry S. Courneya named winner of the 2019 Manulife Prize

$50,000 award recognizes a trailblazing researcher who put exercise front and centre in cancer treatment
Dr. Kerry S. Courneya, winner of the 2019 Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active HealthElias Djemil

McGill, in association with Manulife and the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE), has announced that Dr. Kerry S. Courneya, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Cancer at the University of Alberta and pioneer in the field of physical activity (PA) and cancer survivorship, is the winner of the 2019 Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health.

“I feel very honoured,” says Dr. Courneya. “For me, it is recognition for a lifetime of work that has been inspired by cancer patients and their families, and has been supported by many colleagues, students, and staff.”

Regarding what he hopes the visibility of this award will accomplish, Dr. Courneya goes on to say, “I believe the Manulife Prize will further advance the field of exercise oncology as a critical area of research, attracting new trainees and funding opportunities. The hope is that it will also provide an additional impetus for translating this research into clinical practice, ultimately helping countless cancer patients to better cope with their treatments, and improve long-term survival and quality of life.”

Exercise oncology pioneer

Dr. Courneya is among the first researchers to shape the field of exercise oncology. When he first launched his research program in the 1990s, exercise was not recognized as a key component of cancer care. Through his work, including a series of influential randomized controlled trials, Dr. Courneya was able to demonstrate that PA is a safe and effective method for improving fitness, symptoms and quality of life in cancer patients, both during and after treatments. The evidence that he gathered has been compelling enough to justify the early incorporation of PA into cancer care and survivorship programs in Canada and beyond.

“Dr. Courneya’s research on physical activity and cancer care is an excellent demonstration of how living an active lifestyle can have a positive outcome, not only when we are in full health, but even more so when we are facing major health issues,” says Richard Payette, President & CEO, Manulife Quebec. “Manulife promotes the health and well-being of Canadians by supporting physical activity and healthy-eating programs and initiatives, as well by providing products that encourage and reward healthy living, such as the Manulife Vitality Program.”

With over 500 papers published in scientific journals, Dr. Courneya is one of the most prolific researchers in the field of exercise oncology and exercise science more generally. Among his most recent work, he is the study co-chair for the multinational Colon Health and Life-Long Exercise Change (CHALLENGE) trial, the first phase III randomized trial examining the effects of exercise on disease-free survival in nearly 1,000 colon cancer patients who have completed chemotherapy.

In addition to his extensive research, Dr. Courneya is also involved in several projects designed to translate exercise oncology research into clinical and community practice. These include: Wellspring Edmonton, the Alberta Cancer Exercise program, an Australian program on healthy living after cancer, a national knowledge translation project focused on breast cancer survivors, and an industry-led initiative on the management of cancer-related fatigue.

“Making a positive impact on countless cancer patients”

“McGill University and MCCHE are proud to, once again, award the Manulife Prize in recognition of the most ground-breaking and influential research taking place in our country’s universities and hospitals,” says Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management. “A remarkable pioneer in the field of exercise oncology, Dr. Courneya is making a positive impact on countless cancer patients and survivors in Canada and around the world.”

The Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health, valued at $50,000, was established to recognize researchers whose work is advancing understandings of how physical activity, nutrition or psychosocial factors influence personal health and wellbeing.  The prize is made possible through the support of Manulife and is administered by the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE) at the Desautels Faculty of Management.

Dr. Kerry S. Courneya is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Cancer, and Director of the Behavioral Medicine Laboratory and Fitness Center in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation at the University of Alberta.

He will accept the Manulife Prize at a ceremony in Montreal on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, where he will also speak about his research. Register for the event online before April 22.

Watch the short video on Dr. Kerry S. Courneya’s work