The largest cancer study ever conducted in Atlantic Canada is looking for 2,000 more volunteers to provide blood samples.

Half of them need to be from New Brunswick for the project to meet its targets, said Dr. Louise Park, director of the Atlantic Partnership for Tomorrow's Health (PATH) project.

Dr. Louise Parker

The Atlantic PATH study, which set a world record to toenail clipping samples, is now focusing on blood samples, says director Dr. Louise Parker. (Canadian Cancer Society)

"It's really important for us that we meet our targets so that we can include New Brunswick in a meaningful way in our studies. So we really need 1,000 people to volunteer to be part of Atlantic PATH over the next couple of months," she said.

Volunteers must be between the ages of 35 and 69.

Anyone who meets the age requirement can sign up for the study, regardless of health status, said Parker.

The study is also still collecting toenails, but is focusing now on blood samples, she said.

"They let us do genetic studies because we can get DNA from the cells that are in blood. We can look at all sorts of things — from metabolism, to whether you’re at risk of developing diabetes, for example. We can look at glucose and how your red blood cell hemoglobin is capturing glucose over the longer term and we can look at a whole range of metabolites, hormones, almost you name it , we can look at it in blood," said Parker.

"It’s really precious stuff."

Earlier this year, Atlantic PATH set a world record for the largest toenail collection, with 25,000 samples collected.

Toenails provide information about environmental exposures over the previous nine months — before the toenails were clipped.

Atlantic PATH is part of a $42-million national study examining how genetics, environment, lifestyle and behaviour contribute to cancer development and possibly lead to better diagnosis and prevention.

The study, started in 2008, aims to follow 30,000 participants from Atlantic Canada and 300,000 nationally for 30 years.

Atlantic Canada has the highest rates of cancer in the country, according to Atlantic PATH.

Each year, more than 13,400 Atlantic Canadians are diagnosed with cancer and 6,300 die from the disease.