The annual Cedars Run for Ovarian Cancer raises money for the DOvEEgene Research Program, a leading-edge ovarian cancer research project at the MUHC.

Dominique Dagenais was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer in January 2015, when she was in her early sixties.

An avid long-distance runner, who has won marathons in North America and Europe, Dominique had gone to the hospital to undergo surgery for what she and her doctor thought were running-induced hernias. Suspecting they were something more serious, the surgeon took samples and sent them for further testing.

Cedars Run for Ovarian cancer

Runners form teams with family members or work colleagues

Dominique had been experiencing a bit of nausea and back pain, but she thought it was nothing to worry about. She had no reason to suspect that she had late-stage ovarian cancer. And yet, that was the very diagnosis she received. Just two weeks later, she had a hysterectomy. Next, she went through 18 gruelling months of chemotherapy. Then, in November 2016, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, which was linked to her ovarian cancer.

Sadly, this scenario is not uncommon.

Ovarian and endometrial cancers have long been called “silent killers,” because their symptoms are mild and vague and resemble symptoms of menopause and indigestion, and because, until recently, there was no simple test to detect them. Approximately 3,000 Canadian women are diagnosed every year with ovarian and endometrial cancers, and about 75% of them are not diagnosed until their cancer reaches and advanced stage and is difficult to cure. As a result, 65% of them will die. This makes ovarian and endometrial cancers the deadliest of all of the gynecological cancers – and the fourth leading cause of death among Canadian women.

Happily, Dominique survived.

Out of gratitude to the Cedars Cancer Centre, where she was treated, and to her doctor, renowned gynecologic oncologist Dr. Lucy Gilbert, Dominique and her family established the Dagenais Joly-Smith Fund with the Cedars Cancer Foundation, which funds cancer research and care at the MUHC. “The purpose of our fund is to raise awareness about ovarian and endometrial cancers and to promote the earlier detection of these deadly diseases. All proceeds support Dr. Gilbert and her team’s revolutionary DOvEEgene Research Program,” explains Dominique’s son, Maxime Joly-Smith.

DOvEE (which stands for Diagnosing Ovarian and Endometrial cancers Early) is a world-class, research-based program at the MUHC. The fundamental goal of the project is to ensure that women have easy access to specialized medical examinations that allow for the earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian and endometrial cancers. Improving accessibility to specialized medical tests means the difference between life and death: When ovarian cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, the survival rate increases from less than 30% to over 90%. DOvEE is currently perfecting a revolutionary test that can detect cancers as early as stage 1.

Cedars Run for Ovarian cancer

And they’re off! Participants begin the race at Vera Danyluk Park in Town of Mount Royal

“If you can detect a cancer in its early stages, you can cure it,” explains Dr. Gilbert. “Our research has led to the development of the DOvEEgene genomic PAP test, which can detect these cancers in their earliest stages, so we can stop them in their tracks.”

Just months after her diagnosis, Dominique and her family came up with the idea of organizing an annual event to raise money for the DOvEE program. Given Dominique’s love for running and walking, a day of races fit the bill perfectly. In collaboration with the Cedars Cancer Foundation, the annual Cedars Run for Ovarian Cancer was born in 2016.

The event, which is held in the heart of Town of Mount-Royal every October, brings together families, friends, hospital employees, cancer patients, and cancer survivors, who walk or run to raise funds for the DOvEEgene Project. There is live music, Zumba, and refreshments, and the atmosphere is fun and festive. Participants can register for a 2km run/walk, a timed 5km run/walk, or a timed 10km run. Most register as a team, and many teams wear outfits and accessories that range from subdued to downright silly!

“My family and I are so grateful to all those who support the DOvEEgene Research Program and who are helping to continue the fight against gynecological cancers,” says Dominique. “Until recently, these cancers could not be detected until it was too late. Dr. Gilbert and her team keep pushing the boundaries of science and finding ways to diagnose them earlier. Their work has saved the lives of countless mothers, daughters and sisters.”

Although still in the clinical study stage, the DOvEEgene Test is has proven to be extremely effective. The hope is that, one day soon, it will be accessible to all women, at their doctor’s office, just like a cervical PAP test.

“The DOvEEgene Test is an absolute game-changer for women’s health,” says Jeff J. Shamie, President and CEO of the Cedars Cancer Foundation, which has been the funding arm of the MUHC’s fight against cancer for over 55 years. “Our mission is to support excellence and innovations in clinical care, research, education, and supportive care services, so we are incredibly proud to support the transformative work of Dr. Gilbert and her team.”

The 8th annual Cedars Ovarian Cancer Run will take place in and around Danyluk Park, in the Town of Mount-Royal, on Sunday, October 15, from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm  –  rain or shine. Dominique and her family will be there to cheer on participants, as will Dr. Gilbert and the DOvEE team. To register for the event or to make a donation, visit To find out more about the DOvEEgene Research program, or to put your name on the waitlist for the clinical study, visit:

Why Marie-France Runs for Ovarian Cancer

Marie-France Angers

Marie-France Angers participated in the 2022 Cedars Run For Ovarian Cancer

Marie-France Angers has participated in the Cedars Run for Ovarian Cancer every year since 2017 – the year in which she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Like so many other women, she had no idea she had cancer until it was almost too late. “I was an avid swimmer and, suddenly, I started having breathing problems,” she explains. “A few weeks later, when it became hard to walk and talk, I was rushed to the hospital.”

After many tests, Marie-France was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “Thank God for small miracles: I was transferred to the MUHC, and Dr. Gilbert took me under her wing.” She underwent surgery, but it was too late to actually cure her cancer. “Even though it wouldn’t help me, personally, I wanted to raise awareness about these cancers and help Dr. Gilbert and her team with their pursuit of a better diagnostic tool.” So, she started taking part in the Cedars Run for Ovarian Cancer. “It’s such a special event. The ambiance is fun and energizing, and everyone has a smile on their face. As a cancer survivor or patient, you feel incredibly supported and loved. Honestly, it puts me on a high and refuels my strength and courage for months. I think everyone there feels the same way,” she says. “And, it feels good to know we’re helping with the development of the DOvEEgene Test, which means women will finally have a fair chance of fighting these cancers.”