CCS CIHR Action Grants

Phase 1: CCS/CIHR Action Grants: Proof-of-Concept Interventions in Primary Cancer Prevention

In partnership with:

Alberta Health
BC Cancer & BC Cancer Foundation
CancerCare Manitoba
Cancer Research Society
CIHR Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada
Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation
Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation

Program launch partners

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Institute of Cancer Research (CIHR-ICR), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research-Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health (CIHR-IIPH), and partners have committed approximately $5M over one year to jointly fund up to 25 Proof-of-Concept Grants focused on interventions in Primary Cancer Prevention. Please see the ‘Partners description’ section below for more information, including specific areas of interest.

Deadline dates

Registration due date
June 23, 2021
Full application due date
September 10, 2021
Results announcement
January 2022
Anticipated funding start date
January 15, 2022
When a deadline falls on weekend or holiday, the next business day will be considered the deadline date.


Currently, nearly half of Canadians will develop cancer during their lifetime and about 1 in 4 will die from their disease. However, risk factors, prevention strategies, screening, diagnosis, treatments, and survival are not equitably distributed across populations. For example, a 2017 study of 15 types of cancers in a population-based cohort of 2M people over 9 years found that First Nations people had poorer 5-yr survival rates than non-Indigenous Canadians in 14 of 15 of the most common types of cancers that could not be explained by income or rurality. Similar inequities exist across the cancer trajectory from prevention to palliative and end-of-life care among communities such as immigrants and refugees, Black, Asian, South Asian, and Islamic peoples. Studying cancer prevention in Canada, therefore, requires targeted strategies tailored to the many distinct populations that, together, comprise the Canadian population.

While some risk factors for cancer cannot be controlled (e.g. genetics, age), there is now a large body of evidence suggesting that about 4 in 10 cancer cases could be prevented through lifestyle modifications and healthy public policy tailored to specific populations, that aims to reduce exposure to known risk factors, such as: commercial tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke, UV exposure, unhealthy diet, insufficient physical activity, excess weight, consumption of alcohol, stress, and sleep disruption. Additional known risk factors include environmental and workplace exposures, certain hormones, gene/environment interactions, infectious agents, metabolic disruptions, and social determinants of health. Many of these risk factors are not specific to cancer and so some of the interventions designed to reduce cancer risk are likely to also have impact on the prevention of other chronic diseases and conditions.

A growing body of research, much of which is harnessing ideas and technologies from other fields and disciplines, now promises to revolutionize our ability to prevent cancer. Among these technologies are novel ways of integrating AI and engineering expertise in the development of “new-age” biosensors and wearables, interventions that manipulate the action of chemical, metabolic and epigenetic risk factors, interventions aimed at surrogate markers and pre-malignant conditions, and cancer vaccines. The confluence of these increasingly sophisticated tools and technologies opens the door to a new paradigm in our ability to stop cancer and provides a timely opportunity to test some of these new concepts in real-world settings that recognize and address the cancer disparities and inequities that exist between and among the various groups that comprise the Canadian population to ensure that “no Canadian is left out”.

Program description

The long-term objective of the CCS/CIHR-ICR Initiative in Primary Cancer Prevention is to reduce the number of cancer diagnoses by accelerating the application of innovative interventions to prevent the onset of malignancy before it begins and move knowledge and evidence into practice in the health system, communities and workplaces and into the daily lives of Canadians of all cultural background and ethnicities, including Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Métis), immigrants and refugees, and historically excluded populations. The intent of this Phase 1: CCS/CIHR Action Grants is to motivate Canadians to take “action” to avoid known modifiable risk factors for cancer and to encourage the research and end-user communities to take “action” towards harnessing new ideas, platforms and technologies from within and outside the cancer field to test out bold, novel interventions with the potential to prevent cancer.

This funding opportunity is not intended to generate new knowledge, except in areas with an identified gap, but rather to take the knowledge we already have and accelerate the development, implementation and evaluation of novel interventions that bring new technologies, resources, perspectives and expertise to bear in preventing cancer for all people living in Canada. This will be accomplished by meaningful engagement of the appropriate knowledge users/practitioners likely to implement the interventions, including individual and community-level partners such as First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Urban Indigenous communities and organizations, racialized communities, and people with lived experience, throughout the duration of the project. It will be important for applicants to clearly demonstrate how they have validated the need and/or relevance of the project with the communities they plan to work with. Phase 1 will kick start this effort by supporting one year Proof-of-Concept grants to set the stage for a larger, Phase 2, initiative designed to implement promising interventions in their appropriate settings and populations across the country to achieve equitable reach, access and sustainability.

The goal is to stimulate the necessary multidisciplinary and multi-sector collaborations needed to test the feasibility of small-scale interventions, applying creative concepts with scalable and/or modifiable potential. The focus is strictly on interventions in primary cancer prevention, i.e. stopping cancer before it starts. Proposals related to secondary/tertiary prevention will not be considered.

Funds available

Funding will be provided to support the direct costs of research, including supplies, salaries, costs associated with engaging communities in research including ceremonial items such as tobacco, tea, food for feasting and gift-giving for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples, and equipment associated with the proposed work. Indirect costs are not eligible.

Total budget *
Approximately $5M
One-year period
Up to $200K
No **
Up to 10% of 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.

Funded teams will be requested to present their work at an end-of-grant networking event hosted by the CCS Centre for Cancer Prevention and Support, and partners, with the aim of showcasing project results and promoting knowledge mobilization.

Additional information

For the purpose of this funding opportunity eligible areas of focus include, but are not restricted to:


  • Commercial tobacco use and second-hand exposure
  • Vaping
  • Physical activity/sedentary behaviour
  • Healthy weight/obesity
  • Diet
  • Sun and UV exposure
  • Alcohol use
  • Sleep deprivation/disruption
  • Potential impact of Covid 19 on lifestyle factors, e.g. increased alcohol and tobacco use, chronic anxiety and stress, weight gain


  • Air pollution
  • Radon exposure
  • Chemical exposures
  • Workplace exposures


  • Social and structural determinants of health
  • Policy interventions

  • Structural interventions

  • Cultural interventions


  • Microbiome

  • Hormone use, e.g. birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy

  • Stress


  • Nutrition/gene interaction
  • Previously identified genetically high-risk populations (not including de-novo genetic screening)

Infectious agents:

  • Viruses, e.g. hepatitis B and C; HPV, beta retroviruses, Epstein Barr virus, HIV
  • Bacteria, e.g. H.pylori

For the purpose of this funding opportunity eligible interventions include, but are not restricted to:

  • Interventions that create opportunities and support for people of all backgrounds and cultures to create healthy environments that support healthy behaviours that are easy to implement and maintain given the influence of relevant context and history.
  • Novel policy interventions with the clear potential for broad or targeted population impact.
  • Culturally safe or relevant interventions that aim to increase health and well-being across the lifecycle for all populations, including First Nations, Inuit, Métis and/or Urban Indigenous Peoples.
  • Interventions that target the biological mechanisms underpinning the pathways linking lifestyle factors to cancer.
  • Interventions that integrate aspects of virtual and digital health (i.e. biosensors, activity trackers), with a focus on the implementation of emerging technologies.
  • Interventions focused on previously identified high risk populations.
  • Interventions to prevent cancer through immune modulation, such as vaccines for known or new targets.
  • Chemoprevention interventions/strategies.
  • Interventions mediated by the microbiome or metabolome that are etiologically-related to cancer development.
  • Personalized interventions using strategies, such as circulating biomarkers to optimize prevention, e.g. surrogate markers, or pre-malignant indicators.
  • Surgical procedures, such as removal of fallopian tubes to prevent ovarian cancer, prophylactic mastectomy in genetically high-risk populations.

Interventions directly related to the potential long-term impact of COVID-19 on any of the above-mentioned research areas would also be eligible.

For this funding opportunity eligible approaches include, but are not restricted to:

  • Evaluating interventions to known risk factors in context, in relation to the real-world settings in which they are most likely to occur, for example schools, neighbourhoods, communities, workplaces, and dwellings.
  • Projects that focus on community-based approaches that are grounded in, or engaged with, distinct population groups, including First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities, societies or individuals and their wisdom, cultures, experiences or knowledge systems, as expressed in their dynamic forms, past and present.
  • Considering relevance to different populations and contexts, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, urban/suburban/rural/remote, gender, ethnic, racial and socio-economic contexts and tailoring strategies to identified high-risk groups or underserved populations.
  • Where appropriate, extending research collaborations beyond the health sector to engage less-typically sought expertise, such as engineers, architects, computer scientists, social and political scientists, urban and transportation planners, local municipalities, governments, educators, community leaders, Indigenous Elders or Knowledge Keepers and the general public.
  • Leveraging discovery research, emerging technologies, big data, and existing platforms (e.g. the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CanPath), Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), and other relevant cohorts and databases.

Integrating sex, gender and diversity perspectives into the proposed research to promote rigorous science that has the potential to expand our understanding of health determinants for all people. As such, applicants are required to indicate how they will account for sex (biological factor), gender (socio-cultural factor) and diversity in the research design, methods, analysis and interpretation, and dissemination of findings.

CCS, CIHR-ICR, CIHR-IIPH, and partners are committed to equity, diversity, inclusivity and Indigenous rights, and strive to promote inclusive excellence in our funding programs. We welcome all eligible applicants of diverse backgrounds to apply for our funding opportunities.


A multidisciplinary peer review committee will be assembled for this competition comprised of individuals recommended by all partners on this funding opportunity. The peer review committee will be composed of diverse (gender, geography, career stage, race) scientists with expertise relevant to the submitted applications, and patient/survivor/caregiver representatives who will evaluate the relevance of the applications to cancer and those affected by it.

The mandatory abstract registration will be used by all partners to assess relevance to the competition and to inform the composition requirements of the review panel.

Successful applications must fall within the fundable range (>3.5). Grants will be funded in rank order.

Abstract registration is mandatory and will include applicant details (Principal Investigators, Co-Applicants, Additional Authors, Knowledge Users, Survivors/Caregivers), a public summary, a brief scientific summary, keywords, a clear description of how the proposed study, if successful, has the potential to reduce the incidence of cancer and be scalable at a population level and/or adaptable for local contexts to ensure better access, reach and sustainability, and suggested reviewers and research tracking information. Specific guidelines for the abstract registration are available and should be closely consulted during preparation of the application.

For this competition, there is a limit of one application per nominated Principal Investigator.

Applications from Early- and Mid-Career Researchers (within 5 and 15 years of their first academic appointment, respectively) are strongly encouraged. In addition, researchers from non-traditional disciplines, outside the cancer field, are also strongly encouraged.

For applications involving First Nations, Inuit, Métis and/or Urban Indigenous communities, the Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator must self-identify as Indigenous or provide evidence of meaningful and culturally safe engagement with Indigenous communities. The involvement of Indigenous Elders and/or Knowledge Keepers is encouraged.

A relevance review of the abstract registrations will be conducted by all participating partners to ensure alignment with the program description and scientific focus. Abstracts deemed relevant to the competition will be invited to submit a full application.

Any significant changes to the proposed project or applicant team after the Abstract Registration deadline should be communicated to the CCS ( as soon as they are known. Substantive changes that significantly alter the overall goals and aims of the proposal relative to the Abstract Registration are not permitted.

The proposal will contain no more than 5 pages of single-spaced text and 2 pages of figures/tables/charts and associated legends.

Full applications include the following:

  1. A public summary of the proposed research that demonstrates how the research will lead to significant advances in cancer prevention
  2. 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
  3. A detailed proposal 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. Consideration of equity, diversity and inclusion principles in the composition of research team must be evident.
  4. Considerations regarding sex and/or gender and/or diversity
  5. Relevance of the proposal to primary cancer prevention, including the impact that results will have on specific challenges in primary cancer prevention.
  6. A detailed description of any products expected to result from this funding (if applicable).
  7. A detailed knowledge translation and mobilization strategy that describes the scalability or adaptability of the project and chronicles potential next steps and which could include collaborations and partnerships with other research institutions, networks and/or sectors, as appropriate.
  8. 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.
  9. For applications involving First Nations, Inuit, Métis or Urban Indigenous communities, clear evidence that Indigenous communities have been engaged in the development of the application and that the research will be conducted by, grounded in, or engaged with, First Nations, Inuit, Métis or Urban Indigenous communities.

The review committee will prepare individual written critiques. The review criteria for the applications will include but not necessarily be restricted to the following:

  • the potential for creative but feasible game-changing interventions in real world settings that will directly impact primary cancer prevention and offer a clear route for scalability or adaptability and impact at a population level
  • the degree to which, if successful at the proof-of-concept stage, the intervention will drive “action” beyond the next logical step, in a field of study to change the status quo in primary cancer prevention
  • the integration of researchers and knowledge users/end-users from fields outside cancer into project teams
  • the background and scientific rationale for the proposed research
  • the qualifications and experience of the investigators leading and participating in the project
  • 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 and/or diversity (conditions, expressions and experiences
  • of different groups identified by age, education, sexual orientation, parental status/responsibility, immigration status, Indigenous status, religion, disability, language, race, place of origin, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status and other attributes), where applicable
  • for applications involving First Nations, Inuit, Métis or Urban Indigenous communities: the extent to which the application is aligned with the CIHR-IIPH mandate, and CIHR’s definition of Indigenous Health Research and Meaningful and Culturally Safe Health Research
  • Alignment with Indigenous principles of self-determination and self-governance such as the First Nations Principles of OCAP® (Ownership, Control, Access and Possession), the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance, or other relevant principles of Indigenous self-determination in research.

Applicants are reminded to review the eligibility and requirements page for details on scientific and financial reporting, funder acknowledgement, and Canadian Cancer Society 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.

Partner description

At the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), our vision is to champion world leading outcomes in cancer prevemtion, treatment and support. With the support of our volunteers and donors, we improve and save lives by taking a comprehensive approach to our work against more than 100 types of cancer. CCS funds research, provides services to those living with cancer, advocates on important cancer-related issues and educates and empowers people to make healthy choices. Building on a legacy of continuous innovation and accountability, CCS is adapting its mission to ignite the translation of cancer research into action with the launch of the Centre for Cancer Prevention and Support (CCPS). The vision for CCPS is to be a national hub of research and innovation for cancer prevention and survivorship that accelerates research into action and drives progressive system change, ultimately improving health outcomes for all Canadians. We will aim to achieve this vision by funding prevention and survivorship research, supporting researchers in knowledge translation (KT) and evidence dissemination and providing infrastructure to pilot evidence-based prevention and support products and services, and by supporting the commercialization of new products and services that can be used by the health system to improve health outcomes for Canadians.


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.


The Institute of Indigenous Peoples' Health (IIPH) fosters the advancement of a national health research agenda to improve and promote the health of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Canada, through research, knowledge mobilization and capacity building. The Institute's pursuit of research excellence is enhanced by respect for community research priorities and Indigenous knowledges, values and cultures.

For further information, please contact Tracey Prentice, Science Advisor, IIPH at:

Additional partners

Alberta Health is committed to decreasing the incidence of all cancers Albertans face. In 2023, it is expected that over 23,000 Albertans will be diagnosed with cancer and almost 7,000 will die of their disease. By supporting primary cancer prevention projects with a direct line of sight to public health or clinical implementation, we aim to rapidly decrease the incidence and mortality of cancers in the province, as this will have a tremendous impact on improving the health of many Albertans. Alberta Health will prioritize funding to projects with the greatest population and health outcomes impact. To be eligible for Alberta Health funding, the study should be based in the province and the project team must have at least one researcher from Alberta.

For further information please contact Kate Murie, Director, Health Evidence and Policy at:

BC Cancer, a program of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation is the fundraising partner of BC Cancer to advance research, enhance care and break down cancer to benefit all British Columbians. To be eligible for BC Cancer / BC Cancer Foundation funding, the study should be based in British Columbia and must involve at least one researcher affiliated or in collaboration with BC Cancer.

For further information, please contact Karen Hagan, Grants Officer, Office of Research Administration and Operations, BC Cancer at:

Founded in 1945, the Society is a national not-for-profit organization whose sole mission is to fund research on all types of cancer, thereby contributing to the advancement of science aimed at preventing, detecting, and treating the disease. With respect to the current funding opportu8nity, CRS is particularly interested in projects in the following areas:

• Interventions to prevent cancer through immune modulation, such as vaccines for known or new targets
• Chemoprevention using repurposed drugs, such as aspirin, metformin, hormonal antagonists (e.g. tamoxifen, raloxifene) or new candidate drugs
• Personalized interventions using strategies, such as circulating biomarkers to optimize prevention, e.g. surrogate markers, or pre-malignant indicators
• Where appropriate, extending research collaborations beyond the health sector to engage less-traditional expertise, such as engineers, architects, computer scientists, social and political scientists, urban and transportation planners, local municipalities, governments, educators, and the general public
• Leveraging discovery research, emerging technologies, big data, and existing platforms (e.g. the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CanPath), Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), and other relevant cohorts and databases

For further information please contact Dajan O'Donnell, Director, Scientific Affairs and Partnerships at:

CancerCare Manitoba (CCMB) is the provincially mandated cancer agency and is responsible for setting strategic priorities and long-term planning for cancer and blood disorders. CCMB’s goal is to reduce and, where possible, eliminate the burden of cancer on the people of Manitoba through exemplary programs of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, continuing care, research and education. To be eligible for CCMB funding, the application must be based in Manitoba and be conducted in collaboration with CCMB. Applications from Manitoba should also be aligned with CCMB’s goal and strategic directions.

For further information, please contact Kathleen Decker, Senior Scientist & Lead, Health Services Research Platform, CancerCare Manitoba Research Institute at:

In 2021, breast cancer has become the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the world, according to new estimates from the World Health Organization. Breast cancer mortality is at its lowest level in 30 years, mainly due to improvements in treatment and early detection. On the other hand, breast cancer incidence has remained stable over the same period. QBCF’s main goal as partner of this initiative is to propel breast cancer prevention research by means of innovation. QBCF encourages researchers 1) to explore multidisciplinary approaches or multiple domains of expertise in order to bring solutions fast such as involvement of community organisations, 2) to apply novel technologies to develop decision tools, 3) and to develop or optimize infrastructure, resources, and education tools that will enable innovation in breast cancer prevention research in the future. QBCF also encourages researchers to look into primary prevention of the most fatal forms of breast cancers. To be eligible for QBCF funding, the project must include at least one researcher-collaborator from Quebec institutions.

For further information, please contact Cedric Baudinet, Grant Manager at:

The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) is the provincial agency responsible for funding, facilitating, and promoting innovative, collaborative health research in Saskatchewan, Canada. SHRF works as a catalyst, driver and leader to: build and broaden the province’s research knowledge; increase stakeholder engagement; generate new and diverse partnerships; and measure the impact of health research.

Any applications from Saskatchewan should be aligned with the needs and in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency (SCA). Priority will be given to research involving appropriate engagement with Indigenous communities and the following areas of focus:

• Innovative smoking cessation interventions aligned with lung cancer screening
• Innovative UV protection interventions aligned with the Sun Smart coalition
• New and innovative ideas in primary cancer prevention aligned with this call for research and SCA priorities

For further information, please contact Cara Spence, Acting Director, Programs and Partnerships at:

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada is a voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancers. Since the 1950s, LLSC has contributed millions of dollars to researching new therapies that are saving thousands of lives today. We are also extremely proud of the millions of program dollars we spend annually supporting Canadian affected by blood cancers in coping with the challenges of the disease, its treatment, and long-term survivorship. As an organization with the mission of curing leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improving the quality of life of patients and their families, our strategy to achieve this goal is based on three areas of focus: research, community support and advocacy.

Through this partnership The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada aims to advance breakthroughs in prevention for blood cancers. The LLSC is interested in studies that address the following topics:

• Identifying factors that reduce blood cancer risk or increase protection: drugs, vaccines or lifestyle intervention
• Developing novel approaches to remove/deactivate tumor drivers that initiate, or predispose, disease onset.
• Developing strategies that will enable innovation in blood cancer prevention research in the future

For further information, please contact Paul O’Connell, Manager, Medical and Scientific Engagement at:

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
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 apply for this funding opportunity.
Last modified on: May 20, 2021