CCS Breakthrough Team Grants: Transforming Low Survival Cancers  

In partnership with:

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Institute of Cancer Research (CIHR-ICR) 

Program launch partners

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS)

Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Institute of Cancer Research (CIHR-ICR)

Deadline dates

Program Launch
May 25,2022
Expression of Interest Deadline
June 22, 2022
EOI Webinar
June 28, 2022, 12-4pm ET
Registration Deadline
July 26,2022
Full Application Deadline
October 19, 2022
Notice of decision
January 2023
Funding start date
January 2023
When a deadline falls on weekend or holiday, the next business day will be considered the deadline date.


Since the 1990s there has been a significant increase in survival for many of the 22 most common cancers, with the projected 5-year survival for seven of these cancers now surpassing 80%. However, within this group there remain six primary cancers for which the overall predicted 5-year net survival is less than 30% (Canadian Cancer Statistics). These cancers are:


  • pancreas (10%)

  • esophagus (16%)

  • brain (20%)

  • lung (22%)

  • liver (22%)

  • stomach (29%)


These low survival rates are due to many factors, including a lack of identifiable risk factors, sensitive screening technologies, validated clinical targets, and effective treatment options. Historically, these cancers have seen little targeted investment, especially at a level required to generate momentum, build research capacity, and support the development of the tools, resources and infrastructures needed to drive progress and revolutionize outcomes. As a resultthe six are often referred to as “orphan cancers or “cancers of unmet need”, descriptors that we hope the current funding opportunity will have the capacity to change

Program description

The intent of the CCS Breakthrough Team Grants: Transforming Low Survival Cancers is to bring together the sharpest minds and research talent from across Canada and beyond. By combining scientific, clinical, and patient expertise, in a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment and integrating the power of new technologies and interventions, we hope to find new ways to prevent the onset of these six cancers, improve survival through early detection when the disease is at its most treatable, including the early detection of recurrence and metastatic spread, and develop more precise and effective treatments with fewer harmful side effects.

Although sharing a history of low survival, the six cancers under study are heterogeneous in important ways, including incidence, etiology, and research activity. We anticipate, therefore, that individual teams may, of necessity, vary in size, composition and focus depending on the cancers(s) under study, the current knowledge base, and the existing research and resource capacity. Our goal is to support creative and innovative research on each of the six cancers either individuallyor in combination, where this makes sense based on clinical presentation or other areas of commonality.


Teams will be expected to “think big” and make every effort to bring together all the required expertise and resources necessary for their proposed research, building a critical mass in which the sum is greater than the individual parts. To achieve this goal, it is expected that team members will need to be drawn from more than one Canadian province, and international collaborations are encouraged, where they serve to fill gaps in expertise and/or resources. At a minimum, individual team composition should include, but is not limited to:


  • Patients/caregivers with lived experience of the cancers under study

  • Clinicians/clinician scientists and allied health professionals, including primary care physicians, where appropriate. Teams in which at least one of the Co-PIs is a clinician/clinician scientist are strongly encouraged 

  • Cancer researchers from multiple health themes, and at multiple career stages, including at least one Co-PI who qualifies as an early career investigator

  • Potential end-users of any new knowledge expected to be generated during the study period

  • Expertise and resources from other fields as appropriate, such as engineering, AI, machine learning, chemistry, nanoscience, computational science, and social science


Interested applicants must submit an Expression of Interest (EOI), to be followed by a mandatory EOI Collaborative Webinar. During the webinar, applicantwill be invited to share an overview of their proposed projects with other teams, our Program Advisors (patients and caregivers co-developing the funding opportunity), CCS staff, and partners. This virtual event will enable prospective teams to identify potential areas for collaboration to encourage the strongest teams possible and avoid duplication of effortIt will also provide a forum for dialogue with patients and caregivers with lived experience of the cancers under study to provide input on patient engagement and inform application relevance. Following the EOI Collaborative Webinar, applicants must submit a Registration to indicate their intent to submit a Full Application. Note that all stages of this process are mandatory for Full Application eligibility.


Specifically, the goals of this funding opportunity are to:


  • Focus national and international (as a Collaborator or Co-applicant) cancer expertise on these six low survival cancers to drive a paradigm shift in prevention, detection, treatment and care

  • Ensure the relevance of the research conducted by engaging clinicians and other healthcare professionals, as well as patients and caregivers with lived experience of the cancers under study, in the research project from the outset, including in the design of applications

  • Build capacity to sustain future research through the recruitment of clinicians and clinician scientists, as well as the inclusion and training of early career investigators and trainees to build scientifically strong teams and continue the momentum into the future 

  • Leverage, or build, the necessary national and international resources, platforms, pipelines and infrastructure required to answer the most critical questions related to these cancers

  • Broaden the traditional research focus by harnessing expertise, resources, platforms and technologies from both across and outside the cancer field to create novel and innovative solutions

  • Explore opportunities to adapt successful approaches used in other cancer types or other health conditions to the cancers under study here

  • In those cancers with existing capacity and resources, generate progress leading to clinical trials/first in-human studies before the end of the five-year granting period 

  • Include considerations not just of extending life but also improving the quality of life for individuals living with these challenging cancers, including symptom control, psychosocial and supportive care, as well as palliative and end-of life care

  • Fully engage the appropriate stakeholders needed to move new findings into action and application to ensure that new advances are made available for everyone in Canada 


Projects that would be considered ineligible for this competition include:


  • Projects not specifically focused on any of the six primary cancers listed in the funding opportunity, namely: pancreas, esophagus, brain, lung, liver, and stomach 

  • Projects that that do not offer the potential for a paradigm shift in the prevention of, or improved clinical outcomes for, one or more of the six cancers, but represent obvious next steps or incremental research associated with ongoing studies

  • Projects that do not span the multiple disciplines and regions (at least two provinces) of Canada necessary to bring together the required expertise existing across Canada – in other words, new collaborations and partnerships must be integral to the work proposed

  • Projects that do not meaningfully engage clinicianspatients and caregivers as active team members for the duration of the project and beyond 

  • Projects in areas of existing capacity, that have no clear line of sight for useful application in the short-to medium-term


CCS is committed to equity, diversity and inclusivity and strives to promote inclusive excellence in its funding program. We welcome all eligible applicants of diverse backgrounds to apply for our funding opportunities.

Funds available

Up to $40M is available for this funding opportunity, over five years from CCS and an additional $5M over five years from CIHR-ICR, for a total investment of $45M over five years. This amount may be increased if additional funds become available from CCS or partners. It is anticipated that at least six grants will be funded through this initiative.

Recognizing the variation in research capacity across these six cancers, it is anticipated that the funds required may vary dramatically, with some communities ready for large team grants of up to $1.5M per year, whereas other communities may be building capacity at the outset and so may require substantially less funds, in the $100-300K per year range.  Teams are therefore encouraged to carefully consider their funding request up to a maximum $1.5M per year and ensure that the requested budget is commensurate with the work proposed. For teams requesting the maximum $1.5M per year, full funding will be conditional on the launch of first in-human studies or clinical trials before the end of the five years.  Teams will not be disadvantaged by requesting lower levels of funding. Careful attention will be paid to the rationale and justification for each request.

To achieve our goal of funding at least one project with a focus on each of the six low survival cancers, funding pools will be created for each of the cancers either alone, or in combinations of two or more cancers where justified. The number of pools created will depend on the scope and focus of the applications that are submitted. The goal is to fund the top ranked application in each pool, provided it scores in the fundable range (>3.5), following which, the remaining grants will be funded in rank order, irrespective of the cancer(s) under study, to the competition budget maximum.

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%, or $500K, of the requested budget, 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 or the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research.


Total budget *
$45 M 
One-year period
Up to $1.5 M
10% or $500K of total budget
Application score
> 3.5
* Additional partners or access to additional funds may increase this number.  ** Possibility of a one-year no-cost extension as required.

Additional information

Eligible research areas include, but are not limited to:

    • Biomedical studies to better understand the unique biological features of one or more of these six cancers that make them so hard to prevent, diagnose and treatFor these studies, an eventual clinical application must be clearly outlined and within sight, unless working in an area with very little existing capacity
    • Resource platform development for one or more of the six cancers, where none currently exists, such as tumour/cell banks, drug development pipelines, genome sequencing, etc. Leveraging existing resources to enhance sustainability is strongly encouraged
    • Novel prevention and early detection strategies for one or more of the six cancers that build on emerging technologies, including those originating in other disciplines and cancer types
    • Identification and validation of novel early detection and diagnostic approaches for one or more of the six cancers, including those that are data and computation driven
    • Clinical studies focused on the development of new targeted therapies, novel drug delivery strategies, or the re-purposing of existing therapies shown to be effective for other cancers or other diseases 
    • Identification/validation of novel therapeutics that provide insight into resistance mechanisms, tumour dormancy, immune responses, etc for one or more of the six cancers
    • Strategies and interventions to reduce inequities across the country, related to one or more of the six cancers, and/or address the unmet needs of special populations such as: Indigenous populations; LGBTQ2S+ communities; Black and racialized communities; cultural/linguistic minority groups; urban poorand those living in rural and remote locations. 

A multidisciplinary peer review committee, including patient and caregiver reviewers will be assembled for this competition. The peer review committee will be comprised of relevant and appropriate individuals with the expertise and experience necessary to evaluate the full applications submitted.

The objective of the non-competitive EOI is to promote collaboration among applicants with the aim of maximizing the reach and impact of the Breakthrough Team Grants and to obtain feedback from CCS’s Program Advisors (patient and caregiver advisors). For this competition there is a limit of one application per Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator.

  • Applicants are required to submit an EOI by June 22, 2022 at 5pm ET. Note that this task is mandatory to be able to submit a full application.
  • EOIs will comprise:


    • A list of the Principal Investigator and all other known applicant names and institutions/affiliations (where applicable), including Co-Principal Investigators, Co-Applicants, Patients/Survivors/Caregivers, Additional Authors, End Users, Collaborators
    • A brief summary (400 words) in plain language, that describes the cancer focus of the team and the scientific focus and proposed methodology, including the plan to engage patients and caregivers as partners in the research.
  • Submission of an EOI (via this link) confirms your participation in the EOI Collaborative Webinar and authorizes CCS to share the information provided with Program Advisors.
  • CCS will coordinate a ‘closed’ webinar with the Principal Investigators (or delegate) of the teams that submitted an EOI to provide information on the competition to applicants, explore collaborations across teams, and to provide feedback to patients and caregivers. Depending on the level of interest, we anticipate it will be possible to invite additional team members to the Webinar, to be decided following EOI submission.
  • EOI teams will present a brief summary of their proposed project during the webinar for input and collaboration opportunities
  • Participation in the webinar on June 28, 2022 from 12-4pm ET is mandatory
  • A formal webinar registration invite will be sent to the Principal Investigators of all submitted EOIs following the EOI deadline.
  • All participants must register for the webinar

Following the EOI Collaborative Webinar, it is expected that team compositions will be confirmed. A registration is required to confirm applications to be submitted and to inform the composition of the review panel.

Registration submission via EGrAMS is mandatory and must include applicant details (Principal Investigators, Co-Applicants, Patients/Survivors/Caregivers, Additional Authors, End-users, Collaborators), public summary, scientific abstract, keywords, anticipated budget, and research tracking information.

Guidelines for the registration process will be available by June 28, 2022 and should be closely consulted during preparation of the application.

Guidelines for the full application process will be available by July 26, 2022 and should be closely consulted during preparation of the application.

Full applications include the following:

  • A public summary of the proposed research that demonstrates how the proposed research will lead to a reduction in deaths and/or improved quality of life for one or more of the six low survival cancers under study and a clear demonstration of how patient and caregiver members of the team will be engaged
  • One page specifically oriented towards the patient and caregiver reviewers in non-scientific language on the proposed projects and their potential impacts for patients, including the scope of the projects, future directions, the process for engaging the patients and caregivers and other stakeholders in the study design, implementation and result dissemination, potential barriers to patient accrual and/or retention, and the potential impact of the project on patients' quality of life.
  • A scientific abstract that clearly states the aims of the overall proposal including any previous work done by team members in the area, experimental design(s), methods and analysis plans
  • A detailed proposal (not more than 12 pages, single spaced) describing the work to be performed (including aims, previous work, experimental design, methods and analysis), and an indication of which member(s) of the research team will be responsible.

    • Engagement of the early career investigator(s) should be integrated into the proposal.
    • It should be clear how each member of the team, including patient and caregiver partners, are involved.
    • Consideration of accessibility, equity, diversity and inclusion principles in the composition of research team members must be evident.
  • Up to 5 pages of figures/tables/charts and associated legends
  • Considerations regarding sex gender and other dimensions of diversity should be included in the proposal, but are also described in a separate section of the application
  • Relevance of the proposal to at least one of the six cancers under study, including the impact that results will have on specific challenges in cancer prevention, detection, treatment and care
  • Key Milestones and anticipated timeline
  • A detailed description of any products expected to result from this funding (if applicable).
  • A detailed knowledge translation and mobilization strategy that chronicles potential next steps and which could include collaborations and partnerships with other research institutions, communities, networks and/or sectors, as appropriate.
  • Terms of reference for all team members
  • A detailed training and mentorship program to attract new recruits and disciplines to the field to build capacity for the future (includes trainees at the Masters, PhD, MD/PhD, and Postdoc levels, but also allied health professionals and non-cancer disciplines, as relevant)
  • 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. Consult SPOR guidance, CCS policy or contact CCS for additional information on patient and caregiver partner remuneration eligibility. Note that funds should be set aside in the budget to facilitate travel of teams for networking purposes annually. Funds from CCS and CIHR 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.

The review criteria for the Full Applications will include but not necessarily be restricted to the following:

  • The originality, feasibility and scientific quality of the proposed work and its relevance to at least one of the six cancers under study
  • The background and scientific rationale for the proposed research
  • The potential for practical interventions in real world settings that will directly lead to a reduction in incidence, and/or improved quality of life and survival for the cancers under study
  • Demonstration, in early projects, of an increase in resource/platform development to support further research leading to improved clinical outcomes
  • The qualifications and experience of the scientific investigators leading and participating in the project, including early career investigators
  • Evidence of collaboration between lead researchers from at least two Canadian provinces and with international colleagues, where such collaborations show added value in building a critical mass of expertise and increased research capacity
  • The meaningful involvement and engagement of patients and caregiver partners throughout the research process
  • The overall balance of team members and presence of a built-in plan for training, mentorship and sustainability beyond the term of the grant
  • Knowledge mobilization capacity as an integrated part of the project, including engaging end-users from the outset
  • The appropriateness of the methods for the focus of the research
  • The appropriateness of the term and amount of support requested
  • The appropriate incorporation of sex as a biological variable and/or gender as a social determinant of health, where applicable
  • The appropriate consideration and inclusion of other determinants of health, such as income, education, access to health services, and culture, as appropriate

Applicants are reminded to review the eligibility and requirements page for details on scientific and financial reporting, funder acknowledgement, and CCS policies. In addition, research applications may be related but cannot be identical to any other currently funded projects. It is the responsibility of the applicant to notify the funding Partners immediately should substantial overlap arise from new funding awards during the application and review process of this competition.

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 and partners plan to work with the funded teams throughout the granting period to leverage outcomes and accelerate progress. There may also be opportunities for funded teams to present research progress and outcomes to CCS staff and our Advisory Council on Research (ACOR) during the term of the award.

Partner description

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national charity that funds ground-breaking research, provides trusted information about cancer, offers programs and services to help people with cancer and their families cope, and advocates to governments for important social change to make healthy living easier. CCS has created the Centre for Cancer Prevention and Support (CCPS) to accelerate the progress of research into action, particularly in the areas of cancer prevention and survivorship. Through CCPS, CCS will play a more active role in facilitating knowledge translation and evidence dissemination for the research we fund.

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) mandate is to support research that reduces the burden of cancer on individuals and families through prevention strategies, screening, diagnosis, effective treatments, psychosocial support systems, and palliation.

How to apply

Review eligibility and requirements

Consult CCS eligibility and requirements. Review CCS requirements for Principal Investigators, their teams, and Host Institutions. 

Review application guide
For the Expression of Interest stage, review the above program description. For the Full Application Stage, download our application guide for step-by-step instructions on how to apply for this grant as well as other important information that you need to know.
Click here to submit an Expression of Interest by the deadline.
Click here to submit an abstract for this funding opportunity.
Last modified on: May 16, 2022