Media Release

Canadian Cancer Society announces details of historic research funding program to transform low-survival cancers


New research grants announced today by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) in partnership with Brain Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Cancer Research Society and the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation are bringing together high-performance, interdisciplinary teams to accelerate progress against 6 low-survival cancers. The grants program – called the CCS Breakthrough Team Grants: Transforming Low-Survival Cancers – represents the largest ever collective effort in Canada focused on changing outcomes for pancreatic, esophageal, brain, lung, liver and stomach cancers.

Over the last 30 years, tremendous progress has been made against many cancers, with the predicted 5-year survival for several of them now surpassing 80%. However, fewer than 30% of people diagnosed in Canada with 1 of these 6 low-survival cancers are expected to survive 5 years or more. In 2022 alone, an estimated 41% of all cancer deaths in Canada were due to one of these 6 cancers.

These low survival rates are due to many reasons, including a lack of identifiable risk factors, insufficient early detection technologies and fewer effective treatment options. To transform outcomes for people with pancreatic, esophageal, brain, lung, liver and stomach cancers, more action-oriented research is urgently needed.

“These 6 cancers are claiming far too many lives, and we need to invest in research to change this,” says Dr Stuart Edmonds, Executive Vice-President, Mission, Research and Advocacy at CCS. “Our goal is to support breakthroughs so fewer people die from these cancers and so that those living with or beyond them experience an improved quality of life.”

The $55-million CCS Breakthrough Team Grants unite teams of researchers, clinicians, people with lived cancer experience and other experts to find new and innovative approaches to preventing, detecting and treating these 6 low-survival cancers.

“Through these grants, we’re galvanizing the research and cancer care communities to build research capacity and momentum that could really change the future of these 6 cancers,” states Edmonds. “Importantly, we’re also engaging people with lived experience of these cancers every step of the way to ensure the change we’re shaping will meet their unique needs.”

Taking a person-centred approach, the CCS Breakthrough Team Grants were co-developed and reviewed in partnership with patients, survivors and caregivers. Each of the 10 selected projects focuses on at least 1 of the 6 identified cancers and will include participation and input from people affected by them.

Among the 10 grants are projects that aim to develop a test to detect lung cancer using artificial intelligence (AI), which could help find cancer earlier when treatment is more likely to succeed; identify new approaches to reducing treatment resistance in people with esophageal cancer, potentially saving lives; and accelerate access to clinical trials and personalized treatments to improve outcomes for people with bile duct cancer.

For Angus Pratt, a patient research advocate with lung cancer and member of CCS’s Advisory Council on Research, these grants are providing hope.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion when I heard about the CCS Breakthrough Team Grants program,” he says. “Lung cancer is responsible for so many deaths, and finally, it's getting the attention it deserves. The focus on developing an AI-powered test to detect lung cancer earlier has the potential to make a significant impact and reduce these deaths dramatically and quickly. The impact on the other 5 cancers is similar, and it gives me hope for a better future, not just for myself but for all those affected by this devastating disease.”

This research investment reflects CCS’s ongoing commitment to putting people at the core of research and funding scientifically excellent, high-performance research that improves cancer outcomes and addresses the greatest opportunities for progress.

To learn more about the CCS Breakthrough Team Grants, and the selected projects, visit

Voices of our partners

The CCS Breakthrough Team Grants would not be possible without partners across the cancer control community, such as Brain Canada, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), one of the 13 virtual institutes that make up the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Cancer Research Society and the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation. Our partners are as invested in taking action to transform outcomes and improve survival for low-survival cancers as we are.

Brain Canada

“As a national convenor of the brain research community, we seek out innovative partnerships such as this one to drive discovery and exploration,” says Brain Canada president and CEO Dr Viviane Poupon. “Having people with lived experience of the disease be part of the research team ensures the research and its outcomes are relevant because it aims to solve a real, pressing need.”

Funding from Brain Canada has been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada Foundation.


“ICR is proud to be part of such a remarkable initiative that brings together our talented community of researchers and people with lived experience in our effort to make progress against low-survival cancers,” says ICR Scientific Director Dr Fei-Fei Liu. “Participatory approaches like these are critical to transforming the cancer research landscape across Canada and around the world.”

Cancer Research Society

“Cancer Research Society is very proud to partner with CCS and Brain Canada to support highly transformational research that will impact clinical care for brain cancer patients,” says Dajan O’Donnell, PhD, Director, Scientific Affairs and Partnerships.

Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation

“The Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation prioritizes funding medical research that is novel, innovative and disruptive,” says Alena Levitz, Executive Director. “The CCS Breakthrough grants competition represents an opportunity to fund Canada’s most promising research aimed at medicine’s most challenging issues, together championing those high risk-high reward projects that move the needle forward to benefit of all.”


About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society works tirelessly to save and improve lives. We fund the brightest minds in cancer research. We provide a compassionate support system for all those affected by cancer, across Canada and for all types of cancer. As the voice for people who care about cancer, we work with governments to shape a healthier society. No other organization does all that we do to make lives better today and transform the future of cancer forever.

Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit today.

About Brain Canada
Brain Canada plays a unique and invaluable role as a national convenor of those who support and advance brain research. A greater understanding of how the brain works contributes to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of disorders of the brain, ultimately improving the health outcomes of people in Canada and around the world. To learn more, visit

About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.

About the Cancer Research Society
The Cancer Research Society is a national not-for-profit organization whose sole mission is to fund research on all types of cancer to help prevent, detect, and treat this disease.

About the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation
Established in 1962, the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation is a charitable foundation located in Vancouver, BC. The foundation makes grants to qualified educational and charitable organizations in correspondence to the objectives established by the Hechts in their lifetimes.

For more information, please contact:
Tiffany Hsieh
Manager, Research Communications
Canadian Cancer Society