Funding opportunity

CCS Breakthrough Team Grants - Transforming the future of metastatic cancer

Important Dates

We anticipate funding at least two Breakthrough Teams – one in each of the themes identified below – at a maximum of $1.5 million per year for 5 years, for a total investment of $15 million.

Program launch:
early April 2024
*Informational & Networking workshop (mandatory):
 May 9th (12-3pm ET) or May 23rd (12-1pm ET)
Letter of Intent (LOI) submission (mandatory):
June 27, 2024 (submission form available in EGrAMS)
LOI results notification:
July 15, 2024
Full applications due:
October 15, 2024
Funding starts:
January 15, 2025


Metastasis, or the spread of cancer to other sites in the body, is the main cause of cancer-related mortality – sometimes occurring years after the primary cancer was treated. We now know that some cancer cells can evade treatment and become dormant, thereby escaping detection, only to awaken years later. How, when, and why cancer cells may become reactivated, including whether the immune system plays a role in the onset of metastasis, is not well understood. This hinders the development of new strategies that could effectively detect this spread early and stop it. Despite this knowledge gap, progress in the field has resulted in new treatments for people living with advanced or metastatic disease, enabling them to live longer than ever before. These advancements present new opportunities – and an urgent need – to better support people living with advanced or metastatic disease.

Program Description

The intent of the CCS Breakthrough Team Grants model is to bring together passionate and talented teams of scientists, clinicians, patient partners, and knowledge users from across disciplines to work synergistically and ‘think big’ to address important gaps in cancer research that will be transformational for people affected by the disease. 

The primary scientific objectives for this Breakthrough Team Grants program are two fold (and intended to be represented by at least 2 funded Breakthrough Teams):

Theme 1: To develop a better understanding of the biology of and mechanisms associated with cancer cell dormancy, including research that

  • Investigates different models of dormancy such as angiogenic, immune-mediated, and cellular dormancy.
  • Delineates the mechanisms behind why certain types/subtypes of cancer are more prone to dormancy.
  • Explores the individual (human or tumour) factors (genetic, molecular, etc.) that lead some to develop metastatic disease while others do not.
  • Explores the role of the host immune system in regulating dormancy.
  • Explores a potential role for the human microbiome in tumour dormancy.
  • Develops (and utilizes) new, physiologically relevant model systems that accurately represent dormancy in human cancers.
  • Could result in interventions that can prevent the onset of metastatic disease.

Cancer cell dormancy remains an understudied and inadequately understood phenomenon. This funding opportunity attempts to change this. The research proposed should have a strong potential to lead to clinical application, but the primary focus should be on developing a more thorough understanding of dormancy that will inform all future research in this area.

Theme 2: To better support people living with advanced or metastatic disease throughout the course of their disease, including research that

  • Examines interdisciplinary prevention/management of symptoms and chronic conditions (including non-pharmacological management).
  • Seeks to provide improved psychosocial support.
  • Seeks to develop integrated and appropriate palliative care.
  • Improves support for caregivers.
  • Considers longitudinal studies to provide a clearer picture of the unique needs of people living with long-term metastatic disease (particularly as they relate to patient-reported outcomes (PROs), or that could identify factors associated with longer-term survival of people diagnosed with metastatic disease.
  • Seeks to better coordinate and deliver complex care.
  • Considers equitable access to anticipated project outcomes from the outset.

The overarching goal of this Breakthrough Team Grants program is to catalyze collaborative and innovative research initiatives aimed at fundamentally transforming our understanding of cancer metastasis and enhancing support for those living with advanced or metastatic disease, ultimately leading to improved quality of life and extended survival for those affected by cancer.

Ineligible applications include:

  • Projects that emphasize developing therapies to treat metastatic disease.
  • Projects designed to improve detection of metastatic disease, without an intensive (primary) focus on identifying and understanding mechanisms of dormancy.
  • Projects that seek to duplicate work previously or currently being conducted elsewhere.

Team Composition and Eligibility

For this competition there is a limit of one application per Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator. Please review CCS’s eligibility and requirements section prior to composing the research team. 

Teams will be expected to:

  • Be drawn from at least 3 Canadian provinces, (with international collaborations outside of Canada encouraged where expertise is essential).
  • Be multi-disciplinary in composition (research pillar, scientific/clinical focus, discipline), to stimulate diverse approaches to addressing the research question, including how a potential solution could be administered equitably across Canada. 
  • Include, as an integral part of the team, clinical and other health professionals, patient partners/people with lived experience (termed people affected by cancer), and knowledge users (such as policy specialists), whose experience and expertise will lend valuable insights to the development and implementation of the project.
  • Include at least one early career investigator as a Co-Principal Investigator, and at least 3 trainees at the Master’s, PhD, or Postdoctoral levels – who will be provided with specific training and mentorship (by the team and CCS) throughout the duration of the grant.
  • Include a Project Manager, who will coordinate with the team to ensure timelines, budget and scope are adhered to and who will be the main point of contact with CCS staff.

Guidance on Engagement of People Affected by or at Risk of Cancer

Applicants are required to demonstrate meaningful patient/survivor/caregiver (PSC) engagement in proposal development, implementation, and dissemination of findings. Engagement can mean many things, and all types of research (including basic science) can benefit from different perspectives and lived experiences. We have compiled resources on our website to help inform and guide the engagement process and encourage all applicants to review these at the outset. These include a wide range of resources developed and offered by the CIHR Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) support units, as well as articles on engagement in different pillars of research. We recognize that engagement will change based on research field and focus, and encourage both broader forms of engagement (as part of an overall research or learning program/strategy) as well as creativity in devising engagement strategies. Please reach out to as soon as possible if you have questions. 

Funds Available

Up to $15M is available for this funding opportunity, over five years. This amount may be increased if additional funds become available from CCS or partners. It is anticipated that at least two grants will be funded through this initiative – with at least one team funded in each of the two themes identified above.

  • Teams may request a maximum of $1.5M per year over 5 years (to a maximum of $7.5M).
  • Teams need not request the maximum allowable budget to be competitive, if the goal of the BTG program is fulfilled.
  • Funding will be provided to support the direct costs of research, including supplies, salaries, and equipment associated with the proposed work. Equipment requests cannot exceed 10% of the requested budget, or $500K, whichever is higher.
  • Indirect costs are not eligible.
  • Review CCS’s Financial Administration policy for details of eligible and non-eligible expenses.
  • Note that remuneration for patient and caregiver partners should be in line with CCS’s Patient Partner Compensation Policy
  • Remuneration for trainees (Master’s, PhD, and Postdoctoral fellows) should follow CCS recommendations.
  • Funds from CCS may not leave Canada, except in exceptional circumstances. International collaborators are asked to bring in-kind funding and/or expertise to the project, demonstrated through the provision of a letter of support.

Teams that are successful at the LOI stage will receive up to $10k per team for the development of the full application. Funds must be spent between July 15 and October 15, 2024 and only be utilized for direct costs associated with the development of the full application.

Additional Information

Two expert review committees will be assembled for full application review – one for each of the thematic areas described. Review committees will be comprised of national and/or international scientific experts with relevant expertise and people with lived experience of cancer (termed patient/survivor/caregiver reviewers or PSC Reviewers).

Intended Principal Investigators* and other team members are invited to attend a networking workshop designed to both inform potential applicants about the funding opportunity and to explore potential opportunities to foster multi-disciplinary and complementary collaborations. A pre-workshop survey will be completed by registrants to facilitate break-out group composition.

Workshop structure:

  • CCS staff will provide an overview of the funding opportunity and anticipated outcomes.

  • Based on results of the pre-workshop survey, registrants will be placed in break-out rooms, facilitated by a CCS staff member.

  • In each break-out group, attendees (PIs and anyone else interested) will introduce themselves and area(s) of interest or focus relevant to the funding opportunity for input and collaboration opportunities. We invite participants to highlight skills, expertise, or sample/data access they would be looking for or have to offer to promote.

  • All information shared during the workshop should be considered confidential by CCS and attendees.

Note that this workshop is mandatory for all individuals intending to submit an application as Principal Investigator in this competition. No team without at least one PI or co-PI having attended the workshop will be accepted.

The LOI stage is required to provide initial details of the planned project and inform the composition of the review panel. LOIs will undergo a review process to verify eligibility according to the program objectives and team composition. PIs will be informed of screening results within 3 weeks of the LOI deadline. Successful teams will be awarded up to $10k to facilitate full application development.


Please consult the LOI guide for additional details. Substantive changes that significantly alter the overall goals and aims of the proposal relative to the LOI will not be permitted.


A letter of intent application includes:


  1. Project title

  1. Participant details (Principal Investigator, Co-Principal Investigators, Co-Applicants, People affected by cancer, Project Manager, Additional Authors, Knowledge Users/End Users, Collaborators). Team members will be reviewed for eligibility, therefore minimum team requirements should be met at this stage. PIs are required to submit a CCS Biosketch (CV) at this stage of the application.

  1. Public summary of the project to be written in lay language describing the goal/purpose of the project, the anticipated approach/methods, and expected outcomes. The Public Summary should be written in language understandable to a non-expert (2000 characters, spaces included).

  1. Patient engagement approach describing how people with lived experience will be involved in the project throughout its lifecycle (2500 characters, spaces included). Resources are available here to learn more about meaningful engagement practices. This section may be revised at the full application stage.

  1. Relevance statement describing how the project is relevant to the funding call (and which theme, specifically), how the project will address the relevant theme, and how people affected by cancer will ultimately benefit from the results (2500 characters, spaces included). The Relevance Statement should be written in language understandable to a non-expert.

  1. Scientific abstract including the rationale, aims and objectives, experimental design, methods and analysis, expected outcomes, and dissemination plan (4200 characters, spaces included).

  1. Keywords

  1. Budget request and details describing how the (max) $10k will be used in the development of a full application. Funds must be spent between July 15 and October 15, 2024.

  1. Review panel selection– Theme 1 or Theme 2 and Reviewer Suggestions/Exclusions

  1. Research coding (CCS goals, research focus, CSO, etc.)

Please review the application guide (to be released after LOI results are announced) and evaluation criteria prior to submitting your full application. In addition to the details provided above, full applications will include:


  1. Participant CVs and Letters of Support/Collaboration. Note specific guidance in the application guide, which must be adhered to.

  1. A detailed proposal (not more than 25,000 characters, including spaces (not including references), clearly describing the work to be performed, including background data and previous work in this area, goal/objective, aims, experimental design, methods and frameworks to be employed, analytic plan, and risks and mitigation strategies.

  1. Up to 5 pages of figures/tables/charts and associated legends.

  1. Description of how sex, gender, and other dimensions of diversity are considered and applied in the proposal. This section should be written in language understandable to a non-expert.

  1. A detailed knowledge translation and mobilization strategy, including a data sharing plan, description of anticipated outcomes (products, programs, results) and next steps (further research, implementation, etc.). This section should be written in language understandable to a non-expert.

  1. A detailed training and mentorship program, including early career investigators, trainees, and PSCs. This section should be written in language understandable to a non-expert.

  1. Terms of Reference for all team members. The CCS template is encouraged, but teams may utilize another similar template if desired. This section should be written in language understandable to a non-expert.

  1. Key milestones and anticipated timeline. This section should be written in language understandable to a non-expert.

  1. A detailed budget and justification for supplies, expenses, personnel, and equipment to conduct the proposed research. This must include the number of personnel required to complete the work and a description of their experience and/or education level. Note CCS stipends for trainees below, and CCS’s patient partner compensation policy. Note that funds should be included to facilitate travel of teams during year 2 and year 4 of the grant for review/networking purposes (to be led by CCS). Funds from CCS may not leave Canada, except in exceptional circumstances. International collaborators are asked to bring in-kind funding and/or expertise to the project, demonstrated through the provision of a letter of support.


Training Level

Annual stipend (full-time)






The salary rate aligns with the number of years of postdoctoral experience:

  • $65,000 in year 1

  • $68,000 in year 2

  • $71,000 in year 3 and beyond


  1. Other funding information for PIs and Co-PIs.

Evaluation scales are posted on our website when available.

Applications will be reviewed according to a number of criteria at the full application stage, including but not limited to:

  • Alignment with the funding call objectives
  • Familiarity and utilization of existing evidence and ongoing research to inform the application
  • Quality, clarity and justification of the rationale, aims, approach/methods, and analysis
  • Description of potential challenges and alternative approaches/mitigating strategies
  • Meaningful and relevant inclusion of diverse participants as team members, including PSCs, with clear roles and responsibilities
  • Consideration of sex, gender and other dimensions of diversity and equity in the research plan and anticipated outcomes
  • Suitability of the research environment(s) where the research will take place
  • Quality of the training/mentorship plan
  • Potential of the research for meaningful impact (i.e. that will fundamentally transform our understanding of cancer metastasis and enhance support for those living with advanced or metastatic disease), leading to improved quality of life and extended survival for those affected by cancer

All grant recipients must submit annual scientific reports and statements of account throughout the grant (and 2 and 4 years post-grant scientific reports). Principal Investigators will be emailed instructions about completing the report in our online system (EGrAMS). Submission of these reports is mandatory. Failure to submit the required reports will result in future installments of a grant being withheld.


CCS plans to bring together funded teams at several timepoints during the granting period to review progress and accelerate and leverage outcomes. There may also be opportunities for funded teams to be featured on social media and publications, and present research progress and outcomes to CCS staff, our Advisory Council on Research (ACOR), and the research community during the term of the award. The meetings will be designed as in-person and virtual events.

CCS is a proud signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)and a member of the Transforming Evidence Funders Network (TEFN)as well as other coalitionthat work to support better research assessment practices and revolutionize how evidence is generated, utilized, and applied across various issue areas and policy sectors. In line with our research strategy, CCS expects to engage with research teams in various ways to promote learning, networking, and knowledge sharing throughout the life cycle of each grant. As part of a successful application, CCS expects that grantees will engage in multiple opportunities as appropriate and able.

Scientific misconduct including, but not limited to, fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or misrepresentation of data will not be tolerated and may result in the rejection of proposals in the current program and possibly from all future CCS programs. Misconduct, including but not limited to, racism, discrimination, bullying, harassment of any form (i.e., sexual) will be treated with the same severity.

CCS reserves the right to cancel the support provided through its program should this conduct occur.