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Allan Slaight accepts the Walt Grealis award at the at the 2005 Juno Awards at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. The Allan Slaight Breakthrough Fund donated $50-Million to support research into the disease.MARIANNE HELM/The Canadian Press

A Toronto hospital that is one of the world’s Top 5 cancer-research centres has received a $50-million gift to find treatment breakthroughs for the disease and advance recruitment.

The Allan Slaight Breakthrough Fund, named in memory of the late Canadian broadcast mogul and philanthropist, will support the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation and allow researchers to approach their work in creative and unconventional ways.

The donation from La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso, managed by its namesake, Mr. Slaight’s wife, and from the Slaight Family Foundation, managed by Mr. Slaight’s son, Gary Slaight, was announced Tuesday.

“Allan would have loved everything this gift stands for – it reflects his curiosity, creativity, and his belief that talented people will accomplish remarkable, magical things when they are empowered to do so,” Gary Slaight said in a news conference. Allan Slaight died of natural causes last year at age 90.

The gift, which isn’t tied to a specific research outcome, is being donated at a time when cancer continues to be the leading cause of death in Canada.

“It’s an epidemic that is far deadlier, unfortunately, than COVID,” said Dr. Miyo Yamashita, president and chief executive officer of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, in an interview. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has killed 37,000 Canadians, while cancer has killed 170,000, she says.

”Every day, 232 people die from cancer.”

Dr. Yamashita says major contributions are typically connected to specific initiatives or goals. However, she also says the undesignated nature of this contribution – and its timing – showcases the investment needed in cancer research.

“I think what other potential donors should understand is that it is much more effective, really, to give to scientific research in an unrestricted way,” said Ms. Gattuso.

Dr. Aaron Schimmer, director of the research institute at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and a professor at the University of Toronto whose work focuses on leukemia, said the fund will bring and keep the next generation of elite cancer researchers, educators and caregivers.

“People are drawn to the Princess Margaret because of the incredible environment. We search … for the world’s brightest minds and the greatest scientific talent,” he said.

“Thanks to investment like this, we’re going to be able in the years ahead to come up with new cures for those hard-to-treat cancers.”

The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre currently treats more than 200 different types of cancers, including some of the rarest. It also houses 183 oncologists, 72 cancer surgeons and 575 nurses.

The Slaight family has previously donated to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, giving $50-million in 2013.

The Slaight Family Foundation also donated $30-million last year to improve mental-health care in Canada through the increase in the number of inpatient beds and improve treatment access and support for young people. In February, it gave $15-million to support initiatives focused on addressing challenges faced by women and girls across the country, especially those from Indigenous, racialized and refugee communities.

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