RIOT in the streets helps patients citywide

The Canadian Cancer Society thinks only a RIOT can get the public’s attention about cancer research. And Western students are leading the charge.

Developed in 2010, the Research Information Outreach Team, or RIOT, is a volunteer-driven team challenged to help the cancer society get the word out in Elgin and Middlesex counties about the progress and promise of cancer research. Lee Jones and Angie Woodcock of the Elgin-Middlesex Unit of the Canadian Cancer Society coordinate the team, which boast numerous Western PhD candidates and undergraduate students.

“The Western PhD students are chosen based on the continuum of research,” Jones said. “Each member is skilled differently – from basic science knowledge to clinical research.”

Western PhD candidates Courtney Coschi, Saman Maleki, Michael Jensen and Timothy Yeung, all trainees with the Lawson Health Research Institute, make up the core panel of the team.

“It is important to tell the public what researchers are working on, so they will continue to support this cause,” Yeung said. “We try to tell the public how cancer research benefit patients and what kind of brilliant research ideas scientists and clinicians in the London area are working on.”

“The RIOT team is an excellent tool for members of the lay community to educate themselves on both cancer and the cancer research process,” Coschi said.

The RIOT program is run through the Canadian Cancer Society, the largest non-profit backer of cancer research.

The program is a self-sustaining team that meets every month and contributes creative ideas to continue the growth of cancer research information in the community. The team hopes to convey the amazing advances that have been made in the last five years and the more amazing advances are still to come.

The group coordinates articles on cancer research for a regular column in the Londoner as well as invite scientists or clinicians to write about their research in that and other publications. They facilitate a host of activities, including Bench to Bedside community presentations and a soon-to-come video series.

The team also spreads news by liaising with the local Let’s Talk Science branch to try and arrange a time for RIOT to present to high school students as well as help orchestrate a viewing of RIOT’s new series of YouTube videos at London’s Relay For Life 2012.

“Everyone involved is passionate about getting information out. Due to the success, they want to reproduce this panel in different places as well,” Jones said. “We have ambitious plans to broaden the platform, especially with the launch of the video. It will let more people see that we are out here.”