Pre-announcement : CCS Breakthrough Team Grants: Transforming Low Survival Cancers

The Canadian Cancer Society and partners are excited to announce the upcoming launch of a new funding opportunity, the CCS Breakthrough Team Grants: Transforming Low Survival Cancers. These grants will bring together the sharpest minds and research talent from across Canada and beyond, combining scientific and clinical expertise, with lived experience in a collaborative interdisciplinary environment. The goal is to develop and sustain a critical mass of researchers and resources, equipped to generate breakthroughs in survival and quality of life for cancers of unmet need.

Anticipated Timelines*

Program Launch 
May 2022 
Letter of Intent Deadline
June 2022
Letter of Intent Workshop
Late June 2022
Full Application Deadline
October 2022
Notice of Decision
January 2023
Funding Start Date
January 2023
*These timelines are estimates and subject to change


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%)
  • oesophagus (16%)
  • brain (20%)
  • lung (22%)
  • liver (22%)
  • stomach (29%)

A combination of factors is responsible for the relatively modest improvements in survival for these six cancers. For example, there is frequently a lack of identifiable risk factors, sensitive screening technologies, validated clinical targets, effective treatment options, and research capacity and resources. In most cases there is also a lack in the research capacity, tools and resources needed to drive progress.

This pre-announcement is a “call to action’” to give the research, clinical and patient communities an opportunity to start thinking creatively together about the best, the boldest, and the most innovative approaches towards transforming outcomes and reducing the number of Canadians dying from these six cancers.

Program Overview

Achieving real progress in these six cancers will require an approach that is different from the status quo, one that brings together multiple perspectives to focus on a common goal.

Success will require us to consolidate and build on the available expertise across Canada and internationally, to bring the best minds together and build or leverage resources and infrastructures through the formation of large interdisciplinary teams. These teams may vary in composition and focus depending on the cancers(s) under study and the current knowledge base, but in general will be expected to include patients/caregivers, clinicians and allied health professionals, cancer researchers from multiple health themes, potential end-users of the new knowledge generated, and expertise and resources from other fields such as engineering, AI, machine learning, chemistry, nanoscience, and computational science, where appropriate. Teams spanning several Canadian provinces and engaging international collaborators, where appropriate, to extend capacity and leverage existing resources, are strongly encouraged.

We are hoping that each of the six cancers will be represented among funded teams either as the sole focus of a project or in combination with other cancers in the group that may have a similar clinical presentation or molecular features.  

Following submission of the non-competitive LOI, we plan to bring applicants teams together, virtually, to share short lay presentations on their proposed projects with our patient advisory group, CCS staff and partners. This event will enable LOI teams to identify potential areas for collaboration in order to build the strongest teams possible and also provide a forum for dialogue with patients/caregivers with the lived experience of the cancers under study. CCS and partners will also work with the funded teams throughout the granting period to leverage outcomes and accelerate progress.


The objectives 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
  • Build capacity through the recruitment of clinicians and clinician scientists as well as training and inclusion of early career investigators as part of the team
  • Leverage, or build, the necessary national and international resources, platforms, pipelines and infrastructures 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
  • Generate progress leading to clinical trials/first in-human studies by the end of the five-year granting period, in areas with adequate capacity and resources
  • 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
  • Ensure the relevance of the research conducted by engaging clinicians and other healthcare professionals, as well as patients/caregivers with lived experience of the cancers under study, in the research project from the outset, including in the design of applications

Funds Available

Approximately $40M is available for this funding opportunity, over 5 years. This amount may be increased with additional funding partners. Recognizing the variation in research capacity across these six cancers, it is anticipated that the funds required to make a difference may vary dramatically, with some communities ready for large team grants of up to $1.5M per year that include clinical studies, whereas other communities may be building capacity at the outset and so might require substantially less funds, in the $1-300K per year range.  Teams may therefore request a maximum $1.5M per year, according to need and provided the requested budget is well justified and commensurate with the work proposed. Collaborations, including international collaborations, are strongly encouraged, especially in areas where these relationships may attract additional funds or in-kind resources.