Dr. Robert Olson

Dr. Robert OlsonBSc MD FRCPC MSc

Associate Professor | Head, Division of Radiation Oncology and Developmental Radiotherapeutics, UBC
Affiliate Associate Professor | Research Lead, Northern Medical Program, UNBC
Department Head | Radiation Oncologist, BC Cancer – Centre for the North

Phone: 250-645-7335
Email: rolson2@bccancer.bc.ca

Dr. Olson is the provincial Division Head of Radiation Oncology & Developmental Radiotherapeutics at UBC, overseeing the academic activities of Radiation Oncologists, residents, and fellows at all six BC Cancer centres, working closely with the clinical Provincial Lead of Radiotherapy at BC Cancer.

After initially practicing in Vancouver, Dr. Olson was the first physician hired to the BC Cancer Centre for the North in Prince George, where he primarily treats Head & Neck, Breast, and Lung cancer patients. He is Centre for the North’s Radiation Oncology Department Head, Research Lead, and Fellowship Director.

Dr. Olson is also actively engaged in leadership with the Northern Medical Program (NMP) which is a collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and UBC. He is the former director of faculty development and continues to educate physicians on practical methods to improve their teaching skills of medical students, residents, and fellows. Currently, he is the Research Lead for the NMP, and he works closely with PHSA, Northern Health, UBC, UNBC, and other partners to improve the research capacity in northern BC.

Research Interests

Dr. Olson’s main areas of research include (1) health services delivery research with a focus on improving evidence based prescribing practices in radiation oncology and delivery of care in rural and remote communities, (2) collecting patient reported outcomes, and subsequently improving cancer care based on patients’ feedback, and (3) operating clinical trials, with a current focus on investigating stereotactic ablative radiotherapy in the setting of metastatic disease.

In addition he is the Medical Lead and Principal Investigator of BCCA's Prospective Outcomes and Support Initiative (POSI). Through POSI Dr. Olson leads a novel clinical support program, at all 6 BCC centres, that collects patient reported outcomes (PROs) and subsequently uses them to improve patient care in real time. Since starting in 2013, over 100,000 patient encounters collecting PRO have occurred, which has already enabled high quality comparative effectiveness research gaining international attention. The opportunities to trial and compare different supportive care methods in this program are immense, as are the opportunities to use the database of PRO that is expanding at an exponential rate. Dr. Olson welcomes potential collaborators and students interested in learning more about POSI, especially those interested in psychosocial assessment, PRO, quality of life measurement, treatment toxicity, and patient- centred care.

Selected Publications

  • Palma D, Olson R, Harrow S, Gaede S, Louie A, Haasbeek C, Mulroy L, Lock M, Rodrigues G, Yaremko B, Schellenberg D, Ahmad B, Griffioen G, Senthi S, Swaminath A, Kopek N, Liu M, Moore K, Currie S, Warner A, Senan S. Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy versus standard-of-care palliative treatment in patients with oligometastatic cancer (SABR-COMET): a randomized, phase II, open-label trial. Published online in The Lancet April, 2019
  • Olson R, Liu M, Bergman A, Lam S, Hsu F, Mou B, Berrang T, Mstrovic A, Chng N, Hyde D, Matthews Q, Lund C, Glick D, Pai H, Basran P, Carolan H, Valev B, Lefresne S, Tyldesley S, Schellenberg D. Population-based Phase II trial of Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR) for up to 5 Oligometastases: SABR-5. BMC Cancer 2018 18:954.
  • Olson R, Chan M, Minhas N, Kandola G, Tiwana M, Lefresne S, Halperin R, Schellenberg D, Wai E, Ahmed N, Tyldesley S. Programmatic comparison and dissemination of an audit of single fraction radiotherapy prescribing practices for bone metastases is associated with a meaningful and lasting change in practice on a population level. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2018;102(2):325-9.
  • Olson R, Howard F, Lapointe F, Schellenberg D, Nichol A, Bowering G, Curtis S, Walter A, Brown S, Thompson C, Bergin J, Lomas S, French S, Halperin R, Tyldesley S, Beckham. Provincial development of a patient reported outcome initiative to guide patient care, quality improvement, and research. Healthcare Management Forum 2018; 31(1)13-17
  • Tiwana M, Barnes M, Kiraly A, Olson R. Utilization of palliative radiotherapy for bone metastases near end of life in a population-based cohort. BMC Palliative Care 2016;15:2
  • Olson R, Tiwana M, Barnes M, Kiraly A, Beecham K, Miller S, Hoegler D, Olivotto I. Use of single versus multiple fraction palliative radiotherapy for bone metastases: Population-based analysis of 16,898 courses in a Canadian Province. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Physics 2014; 89:1092-9

For all of Dr. Robert Olson’s publications, please visit his ResearchGate page.


Harvard University: Master of Science in Epidemiology 2010
University of British Columbia: FRCPC in Radiation Oncology 2010
University of Calgary: Medical Doctor 2005
University of Calgary: Bachelor of Science in Cellular Molecular and Microbial Biology 2002