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Putting people at the core of cancer research to drive life-changing progress


Over the last 30 years, thanks in large part to research, tremendous progress has been made against many cancers. Today, 64 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer in Canada are expected to survive five years or more compared to only 25 per cent in the 1940s.

However, some cancers continue to have incredibly low survival rates, leading to the death of thousands of lives in Canada each year. Not only that, but there are alarming health inequities that can significantly impact a person’s experience with cancer and lead to poorer outcomes.

As the largest national charitable funder of cancer research, we at the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) believe research has the power to transform the future of cancer. But to drive truly life-changing progress that meets the needs of all those affected by cancer, we must put people at the core of research.

To drive truly life-changing progress that meets the needs of all those affected by cancer, we must put people at the core of research.

This means we must involve people with lived cancer experience, including cancer patients, survivors and caregivers in every decision about cancer research. It means we must integrate equity, diversity and inclusion in every stage of the funding and research process so that research outcomes can benefit all people in Canada.

CCS Breakthrough Team Grants

For example, we recently worked with partners with lived cancer experience to co-design and review the new CCS Breakthrough Team Grants program, which focuses on improving outcomes for people facing six low-survival cancers. Pancreatic, esophageal, brain, lung, liver and stomach cancers all have five-year survival rates of less than 30 per cent.

We partnered with Brain Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Cancer Research Society and the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation to invest more than $55 million in 10 promising projects that are finding new, innovative and person-centred approaches to preventing, detecting and treating these low-survival cancers.

Each team brings together high-performing researchers, clinicians, people with lived cancer experience and other experts to ensure the unique needs of people affected by these cancers are reflected in their research.

CCS Health Equity Research Grants

Another example is the inaugural CCS Health Equity Research Grants, which aim to improve outcomes by reducing cancer-related health inequities.

Cancer can affect anyone, but not everyone has the same experience due to non-medical factors that can affect a person’s health and impact cancer outcomes. These include personal, social, economic and environmental factors such as income, employment, education, location, gender and race/racism. Experiences of discrimination, racism and historical trauma can also impact health.

In fact, people who are unhoused have higher cancer rates than the general population. First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers. Black men are at a higher risk for developing prostate cancer and are disproportionately impacted by the disease. And these are just some of the disparities that exist.

To help make sure everyone in Canada has a fair and just opportunity to prevent, detect, treat and survive cancer, we worked with patients, survivors and caregivers who experience health inequities and are affected by or at risk of cancer to co-design and review this important grant program.

With donor support, we’re investing $1.6 million in six projects that span the cancer continuum to address the systemic, structural and/or institutional factors that sustain cancer-related health inequities.

But more needs to be done and we cannot achieve our goals alone. To maximize impact, we must galvanize a diverse community of people who care about cancer and cancer research – from donors, supporters and funding partners to people with lived cancer experience, cancer care delivery experts, healthcare practitioners, next generation researchers as well as the brightest minds in cancer research. Together, we will unite and inspire all people in Canada to take control of cancer.


Visit cancer.ca/research-strategy to learn more.

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