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The Atlantic PATH is part of a $42-million national study to understand why some get cancer and others don't. (AtlanticPATH)

A multimillion-dollar, 30-year national cancer study hopes to recruit 9,600 New Brunswick volunteers, and has extended its deadline to do so.

This week, some people in Moncton received letters asking them to take part in PATH, the Atlantic Canadian portion of the study, which aims to learn why people in this region have the highest rates of cancer in Canada.

The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project is the largest study of its kind in Canadian history. In all, 300,000 volunteers, aged 18 to 69, will be included in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Canada, where 30,000 volunteers are sought.

According to PATH, more than 13,400 Atlantic Canadians are diagnosed with cancer annually — with 6,300 of them dying as a result.

David Thompson, PATH’s operations director, said that the high numbers of volunteers are necessary to get valid results.

"This is the largest study of its kind that's ever been done in Atlantic Canada and indeed Canada, and it's one of the top handful or so that have been done around the world," he said.

Volunteers will be asked to fill out a questionnaire, get weighed and measured, and provide blood, urine and toenail samples. Clinics will be held in Moncton next week.

Rosemary Boyle, a prevention manager for the Canadian Cancer Society in New Brunswick, said that the study could reduce the impact of cancer in this province in the long run.

"We have almost 5,000 new cases in New Brunswick every year so this can ensure that we may be able to see fewer New Brunswickers diagnosed down the line," she said.

Thompson said that so far, 6,500 volunteers have signed up in the province. He had hoped to meet the original goal by the end of March.

But he said that the research is important enough that PATH will keep recruiting until it gets close to 10,000 volunteers.

According to PATH, the national study will cost $42-million and will help determine how various genetic, environmental, lifestyle and behavioural factors contribute to the development of cancer.

The goal is to better understand why some people develop cancer and others don't, so that preventative measures, early diagnosis and treatment can be improved.