A group of people laughing together

Our research strategy

There has never been a more exciting and hopeful time for cancer research. Our research strategy reflects a bold approach to funding and conducting research – one that puts people at its core.
Researchers in a lab

Our research vision

Our vision for research is to fund a deliberate portfolio of scientifically excellent, high-performance research that improves cancer outcomes and addresses the greatest opportunities for progress.

Building on our 75-year legacy of funding outstanding research and as the largest cancer charity in Canada, we are uniquely positioned to drive life-changing advances that benefit all people in Canada.
Researchers in a lab

Our grounding principles

Working in consultation with a broad community of researchers, staff, volunteers, people with lived experience of cancer, cancer control and healthcare partners and more, we identified grounding principles that provide a foundation for our research strategy. By working from these principles, we set an ambitious direction forward with people at the core.

Involve people from diverse communities in meaningful ways at each step of the research funding process – from setting goals to designing programs to assessing applications – and integrate equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility into all activities and outcomes.

Maintain a broad portfolio of research programs that spans across cancer types, research areas, populations, geographic regions and the prevention and care continuum, and responds to the needs of our research community, patient partners and donors.

Engage external partners from many sectors to expand reach and leverage funding while integrating research across CCS to facilitate mutual knowledge exchange and translation.
Remain outcome-driven by adjusting funding portfolio to address areas of greatest unmet need and potential for near-term impact while recognizing the importance of biomedical discoveries.
Support clinical studies to bring prevention, diagnostic and therapeutic innovations to people while acknowledging the critical role of industry and the private sector to accelerate research impact.

Our Goals to 2040

With our guiding principles and unique position in the Canadian cancer research ecosystem, we aim to transform research to have maximum impact. To do this, we will enable more research, faster – making measurable progress toward 4 long-term goals.

About 4 in 10 cancer cases can be prevented through healthy living and policies that protect the health of people in Canada.

The rate of new cancer cases has decreased annually since 2011, thanks in part to evidence-based policies, practices and interventions that support healthy living and access to screening that can detect cancer before it starts. Through research on new ways to reduce cancer risk and detect it before it starts, we are building on this progress to drive further declines in the cancer incidence rate.

Currently, prevention and early detection strategies are not distributed equitably across the country. Effectively preventing cancer will also require capacity-building and new strategies tailored to the many distinct populations and environments that represent Canada’s current and growing population.

In most cases, the earlier a cancer is diagnosed and treated, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful.

Over the last 4 decades, we have seen significant declines in mortality rates for all cancers combined, in part because of our increased ability to detect cancers early.

For example, the majority of breast and prostate cancer cases – 2 of the most common cancer types – are now diagnosed at stages 1 and 2, contributing to decreases in mortality of 46% for breast cancer and 50% for prostate cancer since their peaks in 1986 and 1995 respectively.

But these improvements in early diagnosis are not reflected equally across all communities or cancer types. People facing certain cancers, such as brain, esophageal, liver, lung, pancreatic and stomach cancers, are often diagnosed later because symptoms may not be easily detectable early on. These cancers are often found when they have started to spread, making treatment much more challenging. Even for the cancers that can be caught early, like some breast and prostate cancers, there is still more we need to do to improve screening and diagnosis to prevent deaths and enhance quality of life for people affected by these cancers in Canada.

Other complex factors influence how early cancer is caught, including timely access to appropriate health services and care, and the existence, availability and level of participation in screening programs. For these reasons, reaching a goal of having fewer people diagnosed at later stages is a formidable but crucially important challenge.

More than 70% of cancer survivors experience significant physical and emotional challenges after treatment.

The growing number of people in Canada who are living with and after cancer has spurred activity in cancer survivorship research and fuelled research to find solutions to improve quality of life. As our understanding of cancer biology has increased, so too has our ability to provide more precise and effective treatments with fewer side effects. This progress applies equally to the mainstays of cancer treatment – surgery, radiation and chemotherapy – as well as to relatively new approaches such as immunotherapy and radioligand therapy.

We must continue to push forward. We need to develop new and more precise therapies to prevent people from dying of cancer while also discovering ways to reduce the adverse side effects of treatment so people can live long, healthy lives.

Cancer prevention strategies, screening, diagnosis, treatments and survival are not equitably distributed among Canada’s diverse populations. These inequities historically excluded populations such as members of the Black, Indigenous and people of colour community as well as those experiencing racism, homelessness, physical disabilities and mental health challenges. Effective cancer control requires targeted strategies to engage and co-create with the many distinct populations that make up Canada.

This need is driving a new era of how we conduct health research for maximum impact – one that focuses on implementation research, cost-effectiveness studies, integrated knowledge translation and mobilization, and the involvement of people living with cancer and the public as partners in the research process.

At the same time, we must invest in health services and economics research that benefit all individuals and communities in Canada, driving cost-effective approaches and building the case for their uptake by the cancer prevention and care system. We will strive to ensure that all people living in Canada are able to benefit from the best prevention strategies, scientific breakthroughs and models of care available.

Our integrated approach

To drive impact and achieve our goals, we are uniting research and action to directly address the changing needs of all communities. We will implement cross-cutting approaches to guide the research we support, making it more relevant to those we serve and accelerating research outcomes into life-changing impact.

These are a few of our integrated approaches.

Working with partners with lived cancer experience, we have co-developed a Patient Engagement in Cancer Research plan that will ensure the voices of people affected by cancer are embedded in decision-making and capacity-building across our research programs. By championing patient leadership and supporting patients as co-creators within our processes, we are reframing our traditional research approaches through the lens of patients to make our research truly relevant to the communities we serve.

We will engage partners beyond the patient community – such as research funders, cancer agencies/foundations and industry – to broaden our reach, fill gaps in research knowledge and expertise, connect directly with end users and leverage our investments to fund more grants. We will involve partners early to co-create research programs, maintaining transparency, communication and flexibility, and work together to ensure our shared goals are met for the benefit of people’s health.

We will facilitate and expedite the movement of research discoveries and innovations into policy and practice so they can directly benefit people affected by cancer. We will support knowledge translation and mobilization by creating opportunities for researchers to work together with end users such as healthcare professionals, policy makers, patients and caregivers. We will be a true partner in research with our research community, celebrating their success and creating opportunities to share their research progress. This will enable us to help solve problems, build networks and greater public participation in cancer research, and contribute to scientific literacy among patients and the public.

We will expand our support for the next generation of cancer researchers in smaller provinces, so that research progress is sustained for years to come. By investing in the recruitment and training of emerging scholars and instilling the value of patient engagement and inclusivity, we will work with universities, hospitals and research institutions to lay the foundation for a diverse and inclusive research workforce. This will open the door to greater and more diverse contributions that strengthen the future of Canada’s cancer research ecosystem.

We will continue to build on our Research Inclusive Excellence Action Plan, first released in 2020, to ensure our research funding reflects inclusive excellence and our funded researchers consider the potential for greater equity in their processes and outputs. We will work to become a leader in the charitable sector in the promotion of inclusive excellence across our research funding and awards programs – from program development to results. We will work with our partners to ensure that there is greater representation among cancer research participants – from expanding access to clinical trials to engaging with diverse patient communities as partners in research. We will make specific investments in researchers who are under-represented, such as Black and Indigenous researchers, and we will continue to learn, assess and evolve our plans as we work toward achieving equitable outcomes for everyone affected by cancer.

We will work with partners to develop a pan-Canadian cancer data strategy that will enhance the collection, integration and use of data to improve cancer control and outcomes for all people in Canada. We will work with key stakeholders to define short-, medium- and long-term actions that will advance cancer data and to seek buy-in for the strategy from decision-makers with support from patients, survivors and caregivers across the country. We will continue to support innovative efforts that address challenges of data accessibility, completeness, quality and timeliness so that we can fully harness the power of data to ensure more equitable and timely access to the highest quality cancer care for all Canadians.

Patient partner Christine Wu

“For patients, research brings hope. Researchers are the experts in researching and treating cancer, and cancer patients are the experts living with cancer and we bring a different perspective to research. Only by working together can we transform cancer.”

Christine Qiong Wu, CCS Patient/Survivor Caregiver Reviewer 

Evaluating progress

What does success look like?

In addition to achieving our 4 goals – prevent, detect, care and champion – we will transform research to have maximum impact by:

  • Involving patients, caregivers and survivors meaningfully in all aspects of research – from setting priorities to participating in research studies and evaluating outcomes
  • Aligning a cancer research portfolio with patient and healthcare system positioned to make meaningful changes to cancer control policies, practices and programs
  • Building a productive, collaborative and supportive CCS research community that reflects and leverages Canada’s diversity and meaningfully includes patients, caregivers, survivors and partnerships from conception to implementation
  • Creating diverse and impactful partnerships that help to extend the breadth, scope and reach of research funded by CCS and our partners
  • Supporting a pipeline of disruptive cancer innovations that aims to improve the cancer experience