CCS Challenge Grants

Highlights of the program

The Challenge Grants program will support cancer research projects across the cancer continuum and across disciplines, with an ultimate goal of solving a problem (i.e. a ‘challenge’) in cancer that is meaningful to people affected by or at risk of cancer. Applications from the four pillars of health research (i.e. biomedical; clinical; health services; and social, cultural, environmental and population health) are welcome. Applicants are strongly encouraged to demonstrate meaningful engagement of people affected by or at risk of cancer (termed patient and stakeholder engagement) in the development, implementation, and/or dissemination of research findings. We recognize that different approaches to engagement may be better suited to different types of research and have provided guidance to support applicants conducting all types of research below. 

Deadline dates

Abstract registrations due
June 21, 2023
Relevance Review results
mid-July, 2023
Full application due date
September 21, 2023
Results announcement
January 2024
Anticipated funding start date
January 1, 2024
When a deadline falls on weekend or holiday, the next business day will be considered the deadline date.

Program Description

The Challenge Grants program will support cancer research projects across the cancer continuum and across disciplines, with an ultimate goal of solving a problem (i.e. a ‘challenge’) in cancer that is meaningful to people affected by or at risk of cancer.

CCS’s Research Goals to 2040 are:

Fewer people in Canada will develop cancer.
Fewer people will be diagnosed with Stage 3 or Stage 4 cancer.
People with cancer will live longer and with improved quality of life during and after treatment.
Equitable and timely access to innovative and affordable high-quality care for more people in Canada.

Challenges should align with CCS Research Goals and applicants must clearly articulate how and/or why the challenge is relevant to people affected by cancer (or at risk, for prevention-focused research).  Applicants must clearly describe the anticipated contribution of their proposed project towards solving the identified challenge. This includes, for example, outcomes that have immediate impact (such as a device, therapeutic, program, policy, or practice change), or those that are more long term in scope (such as an important finding relevant to the biology or etiology of cancer that could eventually be applied to prevent cancer or improve outcomes).

Preliminary data or supporting evidence, for both the challenge and the proposed solution, is required. Applicants must articulate how the goals for the project will pave the way towards a solution to the challenge identified, both over the term of the grant, as well as what the next steps towards impact would be should the project aims be achieved. For example, applicants may describe how the knowledge generated through the grant will be shared and/or mobilized, with strategies beyond publications and presentations (e.g. through engagement of patient, survivors, caregivers, clinicians and other practitioners or end-users early on) to ensure utility of the solution, and to support next steps.

The Canadian Cancer Society’s Research Strategy places people at the center of our research endeavours. By embedding affected communities throughout the research continuum, we will identify and achieve desired results sooner. Applicants will be required to consider sex, gender, and other identity factors (e.g. race, ethnicity) and their intersectionalities in the research design, methods, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of findings/outcomes wherever relevant. Equitable access to research outcomes should also be considered for relevant applications.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity

CCS is committed to equity, diversity, inclusivity, and First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples rights. We strive to build inclusive and diverse capacity in the cancer research ecosystem through both policies and practices, and aim to equitably support applicants with diverse expertise, experiences and narratives. 

We recognize that structural racism and discrimination exists in the research ecosystem, and as we move to examine and dismantle these practices, we seek to learn from the resilience, wisdom and diversity of other perspectives. We commit to examining biases, seeking inclusive solutions and acknowledging the discomfort that comes with systemic and structural change. We commit to advancing equity, diversity and inclusive practices and principles, including learning about and applying decolonizing and anti-racist approaches. We welcome and encourage eligible applicants of diverse backgrounds to apply for our funding opportunities and commit to diversity on our review panels.

Guidance on engagement of people affected by or at risk of cancer

Applications are strongly encouraged to demonstrate meaningful patient and stakeholder engagement in research development, implementation, and/or dissemination of research findings. Engagement can mean many things, and all types of research can benefit from different perspectives. We have compiled resources on our website to help inform and guide the engagement process. These include a wide range of resources developed and offered by the CIHR Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) support units, but also articles on engagement in different types of research, including biomedical. We recognize that patient and stakeholder engagement will look different for different types of research 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. 

Funds available

Funding will be provided to support the direct costs of research, including supplies, eligible salaries/patient partner remuneration, and equipment associated with the proposed work. Equipment requests cannot exceed 15% of the requested budget. Indirect costs are not eligible. Please consult our grant expense policies when creating your budget.

Total budget *
Approximately $18M
3-year period
up to $175K per year
15% budget
* Additional partners or access to additional funds may increase this number.

Special Funding calls

As a result of designated donations made to CCS by major donors, or through targeted fundraising initiatives (such as the Run for the Cure), we are pleased to announce several special funding calls to support high-quality research in the following areas within the broader Challenge grant competition:

  • Breast cancer
  • Childhood cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Metastatic Myxoid Liposarcoma (research to improve our understanding of metastasis in myxoid liposarcoma with the goal to be able to effectively detect, prevent and/or treat metastases) (note: this grant may be renewable for funding for pursuit of next steps pending review of progress)
  • Prostate cancer

Additional information

Seven expert review committees will be assembled to review the full applications. Applicants will be asked to select 1st and 2nd choices for desired panels as part of the abstract registration and application process, however CCS reserves the right to assign an application to whichever panel possesses the necessary expertise to review the proposal. After the relevance review process, panel topics may be re-organized to better accommodate the invited applications.

The expert review committees will be composed of diverse (gender, geography, career stage, race) scientists, end-users/decision-makers and patient/survivor/caregiver reviewers who, collectively, possess relevant expertise and experience to review the submitted applications (see review criteria below for more information).



CSO Codes

C1: Mechanisms of risk, initiation, and progression

Research focused on understanding mechanisms of cancer risk, initiation and spread

1.1-1.5, 2.1-2.4, 3.6

C2: Molecular biomarkers

Research focused on identifying and testing cancer-related biomarkers (diagnostic, prognostic, predictive), including clinical testing/application


C3: Imaging & Technology

Research aimed at developing new or improving imaging modalities and/or other technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, machine learning, nanotechnologies, robotics, wearable technologies, etc.), including clinical testing/application, for improved detection, prognosis, or monitoring of cancer


C4a: Therapeutics

Research aimed at identifying and developing new therapeutic approaches (including re-purposing and combination therapies) for preventing and/or treating cancer (e.g. therapeutics, radiotherapy, and surgery) - from discovery to clinical testing.*Not including immunologically directed therapies (see 4b).

3.3, 5.1-5.7

C4b: Immunotherapy

Research aimed at identifying and developing new immunologically directed therapeutic approaches (including re-purposing and combination therapies) for prevention and/or treating cancer (e.g. vaccines, antibodies, antibiotics, adaptive cell products, microbiome, abscopal effect, theranostics or other biologics) - from discovery to clinical testing.

3.4, 5.1-5.7

C6: Prevention & Supportive Care

Research focused on (primary) prevention (behavioural and other interventions), patient centred outcomes related to cancer, the psychosocial and physical needs of people affected by cancer, as well as end-of-life and palliative care research

3.1, 3.2, 3.5, 6.1, 6.6, 6.9

C7: Health Services & Policy

Research that aims to improve health service delivery related to cancer (including prevention of cancer), such as quality, efficiency, cost effectiveness, equitable access, improving data collection and analysis, screening, epidemiology, surveillance and policy research

6.2-6.5, 6.7

Please review the application guide prior to submitting your abstract.

Abstract registration is mandatory. Abstract submissions will undergo a relevance review process to ensure alignment with the Challenge Grants program (i.e. clear identification of a challenge to be addressed that is demonstrably meaningful to people affected by or at risk of cancer), and will help to inform the composition of the review panels. A maximum of one application per Principal Investigator is permitted in this competition (applicants may be listed as Co-PIs on multiple applications).

Abstract registration includes:

  1. Applicant and (known) team details (Principal Investigator (PI), Co-PIs, Co-Applicants, Additional Authors, Patients/Survivors/Caregivers, Implementers/Decision-makers, Collaborators etc.) (team members may be added at the full application stage)
  2. A Scientific abstract that describes the rationale (including ‘how’ the project is meaningful to people affected by cancer), objectives/aims, methods, and anticipated results and potential impact of the project (4200 characters, spaces included)
  3. A Public Summary that describes (in plain language understandable to a non-scientist) why this work is important to people affected by cancer (rationale); the goal or purpose of the project (objectives/aims); the research plan (methods); and the anticipated results and potential impact of the project (2000 characters, spaces included)
  4. A Relevance Statement that clearly articulates the Challenge to be addressed and what makes it important to solve (including, but not limited to ‘how’ it is meaningful to people affected by cancer). For example, how have affected individuals/communities contributed to your research design? How do you know that this work has value for those whose lives you are aiming to impact? What cost or resource burden could be solved if this project (and its downstream impacts) were successful? (2500 characters, spaces included)
  5. Keywords
  6. Panel recommendation
  7. Suggested reviewers
  8. Research tracking information

Please consult the abstract registration guide for additional details. Eligible abstract registrations will be invited to submit a full application. Substantive changes that significantly alter the overall goals and aims of the proposal relative to the Abstract Registration are not permitted.

Please review the application guide prior to submitting your application. When preparing the full application, the following additional information is required:

  1. Team member CVs or Letters of Support
  2. A detailed scientific proposal including goal(s)/hypothesis and aims of the project, supporting evidence/rationale/theoretical framework, experimental/research design, methods, analysis (including alternative approaches and mitigation of risks), anticipated results and potential impact of the research. Describe the data management plan (how data will be collected, documented, protected, and shared, with consideration for the First Nations Principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP) where relevant). While sex, gender and other dimensions of diversity, as well as patient and stakeholder engagement are called out below, these should be evident within the research plan where relevant (21,000 characters, spaces included). An additional 2 pages of figures/tables/charts and associated legends are permitted (and may be embedded in the proposal as images without affecting character count).
  3. A description of how sex and/or gender and/or other dimensions of diversity and their intersectionalities have been factored into the research plan through to dissemination of results/next steps towards implementation (where relevant).
  4. A description of knowledge translation/mobilization activities - both for the current project, as well as describing what the next steps towards (eventual) impact could be should the project aims be achieved. This could include engagement of patients, survivors, caregivers, clinicians and other practitioners or end-users to ensure utility of the proposed solution, utilization and/or uptake of project results as relevant (depending on the stage of the research proposed). Public and/or patient engagement strategies (including co-design where appropriate) are encouraged. Equitable access to results should be considered (as relevant).
  5. A draft Terms of Reference (ToR) (word/pdf) inclusive of all team members, and detailing how all members of the team have been and will be integrated into the work proposed (including barriers to participation and how these will be addressed), decision-making (and conflict resolution) process, evaluation of engagement (where relevant), and a description (or descriptions) of the research environment(s). Consideration of equity, diversity and inclusion principles in the composition of the research team must be evident. It is expected that all team members will have reviewed, contributed to, and agreed to the ToR as submitted, however it is expected that the ToR will change throughout the lifetime of the project.
  6. A detailed budget and justification providing rationale for the requested consumables, personnel, and equipment associated with the research project. Details must include the number of personnel required to complete the work, a description of their experience and/or education level, and their time commitment to the project. Consult SPOR guidanceCCS policy or contact CCS for additional information on remuneration eligibility.

Two scores – Scientific Merit and Relevance and Potential Impact – are averaged together to create a final score upon which applications are ranked. Scientific Merit includes an assessment of the Research Strategy, Team Composition, and Environment where the research will take place. The Relevance and Potential Impact score considers relevance of the project to the funding opportunity, including alignment with CCS’s Research Strategy goals, meaningful patient and stakeholder engagement, commitment to equity, diversity and inclusivity, knowledge translation and mobilization, and the potential for the research, if successful (and used/applied), to have an impact on cancer

Evaluation scales can be viewed here.

All grant recipients must submit annual progress reports and statements of account throughout the grant (and 2 years post-grant for progress 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 the future installments of a grant being withheld.

For this competition, duplicate applications submitted to CCS and/or other agencies will not be accepted at the full application stage. It is understood that conceptual overlap may occur between applications (i.e. overall objectives of the work may be related and complementary), but specific aim and/or budgetary overlap is not permitted - except in cases where the principal investigator is applying for a concurrent salary award. 

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
Review the Challenge Grants application guide here.
Submit your abstract in EGrAMS by 5pm ET on June 21, 2023.