Dr. Joseph Gilbert Research Contribution of the Year Award: Dr. David Palma

Dr. David Palma is recognized for his publication, “Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy versus standard of care palliative treatment in patients with oligometastatic cancers (SABR-COMET): A randomized, phase 2, open-label trial,” in The Lancet. A radiation oncologist at London Health Sciences Centre, Dr. Palma is a global leader in the field of cancer research and radiation clinical trials. 

Cancer that spreads from an original tumour to other parts of the body (metastatic cancer) is often considered incurable. SABR-COMET, a clinical trial led by Dr. Palma that included 10 hospitals internationally, was the first randomized trial to show a survival benefit following the use of SABR, or high-dose radiation, in patients where the cancer had spread to fewer than five sites. In the initial publication, patients saw a 13-month survival improvement and in a 2022 update, that rose to 25 months.

The study has been cited over 1,000 times, seen international news coverage, and has led to the use of SABR in several clinical guidelines. Follow-up trials are also underway, including SABR-COMET-3 and SABR-COMET-10, which are further testing the role of SABR in treating metastatic cancers.