Partnership commits $24.5M to support innovation in Canadian cancer services

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer is working with partners across Canada to innovate cancer care, with a focus on improving access to world class cancer screening services for underserviced populations in the wake of a pandemic that’s changed the face of health care

Nov. 25, 2020 (Toronto, Ont.) – The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (the Partnership) is investing $24.5 million and supporting 20 partners to bring innovations to cancer services across Canada including actions that will address the urgent needs of people affected by cancer during this pandemic. This work reflects the Partnership’s Innovating Against Cancer focus and builds on over $300 million in federal funding already invested with our partners since the Partnership was formed in 2007 supporting quality improvements, change initiatives and innovation across all aspects of cancer care to the benefit of everyone in Canada. During the pandemic, the funded initiatives deliver on the need to reduce people’s exposure to the healthcare system, receive services virtually and closer to home, and bring quality efficiencies in an accelerated manner to cancer services.

“The Partnership recently worked with 7,500 citizens and partner organizations from across Canada to craft a new vision for cancer care, the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control 2019-2029 (the Strategy). To achieve this shared vision, major innovations are set out in the Strategy’s eight priorities,” said Cynthia Morton, CEO of the Partnership. “The pandemic has highlighted the need and desire of cancer systems to urgently adopt at an accelerated pace the innovations set out in the Strategy, with both existing and new partners. As our cancer and healthcare systems seek new ways to sustain access to quality care, we have an obligation to adopt real innovation and improvements to how cancer services are delivered to all people wherever they live in Canada.”

The just released Lung Cancer and Equity report highlights the differences in access to care and health outcomes for people with low income and people who live in rural and remote communities. For example, the data show striking disparities in lung cancer survival, early diagnosis of the disease and access to treatment between low- and high-income Canadians. The Partnership is supporting provinces and territories in their efforts to implement lung cancer screening for those at high risk. As a result, Canada will be a world leader in the introduction of lung cancer screening and the reduction of deaths caused by lung cancer in Canada.

The leadership and support of the Partnership gives provincial cancer programs the ability to work together to improve the cancer care system for all Canadians.

We are grateful for the funding support recently received from the Partnership which enabled British Columbia to be the first in Canada to announce a population-based provincial lung cancer screening program.

We are stronger when we work together, and together, we are changing the outcomes and making a difference in the lives of all Canadians touched by cancer.

-Dr. Kim Nguyen Chi, Chief Medical Officer at BC Cancer

Quick facts

  • Innovating Against Cancer is a suite of partner initiatives that will help restore and sustain cancer screening and clinical care, reduce the rates of cancer deaths in Canada, drive faster innovation in how cancer services are delivered, and implement system-level changes that address inequities in cancer care for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, and underserviced populations.
  • New investments by the Partnership will support our work with partners on Innovating Against Cancer initiatives, which will make changes to cancer services that align with, and continue to drive forward, the priorities of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control.
  • In the early days of the pandemic, the Partnership recognized that partners at provincial and territorial cancer programs and health ministries were facing new challenges, and cancer patients faced many unknowns in the availability of their care. To ensure patient connectedness back to their cancer teams, the Partnership provided immediate funding $1.3 million and technological supports to help our partners keep those affected by cancer and their communities safe and informed.
  • The Partnership has committed funding of $24.5 million and other supports to provide jurisdiction-specific assistance to sustain cancer care through the pandemic and beyond – to accelerate the adoption of the Strategy’s innovative care solutions, including more cancer services delivered virtually, at-home cancer screening and other home-based services for cancer patients, for mental health, palliative care and other needs.

Addressing gaps in cancer care for underserviced communities

All Innovating Against Cancer initiatives will see underserviced populations put front and centre with a priority of working with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. The Partnership and its partners will work with community leaders to co-develop solutions that deliver innovative cancer services in a culturally appropriate way. A major milestone has already been achieved, as the Partnership is supporting the development and implementation of Indigenous cancer strategies in every province and territory, with previously announced Partnership funding of $24 million.

We recognize that your race, Indigeneity, immigration status, economic status, where you live and/or sexual orientation can affect your ability to engage with the cancer and healthcare system and ultimately impact the outcomes of your cancer diagnosis.

Our efforts with our partners to restore and innovate cancer services require all systems to address these inequities as a priority.

Canada’s refreshed Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control 2019-2029 establishes priorities and actions we all need to undertake to ensure high quality, accessible cancer care for everyone living in Canada.

-Dr. Craig Earle, VP, Cancer Control at the Partnership

Innovating Against Cancer – The initiatives

Eliminating cervical cancer through innovative practices

The World Health Organization has set the goal to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide this century and Canada’s Minister of Health committed the country to achieving this. A key step to achieve this in Canada is the Action Plan for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer in Canada 2020-2030, now available. The Partnership and partners across Canada are using this plan to guide action on priorities toward the elimination of cervical cancer in Canada by 2040. These priorities include HPV vaccination of boys and girls, a shift to primary HPV screening in cervical screening programs and ensuring all people receive appropriate follow-up when abnormalities are identified. First Nations, Inuit and Métis-specific priorities and actions are also presented in the Action Plan. The Partnership has provided $1.6 million in funding to immunization partners Urban Public Health Network, Rural Remote and Northern Public Health Network, and the Public Health Physicians of Canada, and is working with The Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada on clinical guidance for follow-up and management of patients after abnormal HPV testing.

Establishing lung cancer screening programs across Canada

The Partnership is working with all provinces to implement organized lung cancer screening for people at high risk. Leading the way, British Columbia has announced its plans for a screening program expected to be running by the spring of 2022. The Partnership is committing $5.0 million to this work over the next 1.5 years to accelerate planning and implementation across Canada. The evidence is clear that screening people based on their risk of getting lung cancer can save lives because this type of cancer, when caught early, has better treatment outcomes. This initiative will place a special focus on working with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to develop Peoples-specific approaches to increase the accessibility of lung cancer screening programs for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. The Partnership has released a report on Lung Cancer and Equity that focuses on income and geography and its effect on lung cancer diagnosis and outcomes.

Building world-class cancer screening systems from coast-to-coast-to-coast

The first wave of the pandemic saw cancer screening programs stop or drastically modify their approach to finding cancer early, out of a fear of patient exposure to COVID-19 along with a lack of access to diagnostic and lab time. The Strategy sets out new approaches to screening that require fewer interactions with the healthcare system and more accessible, highly reliable home-based screening options. The Partnership is providing funding of $3.4 million to support early adoption of these innovative approaches to screening programs. Additionally, the Partnership has brought together experts from across the country to rethink how cancer screening services can optimally resume in ways that are responsive and ensure access during successive waves of COVID-19. This guidance document Management of Cancer Screening Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Building Resilient, Safer and Equitable Screening Services provides evidence-based recommendations to ensure all provinces and territories can increase the resiliency of screening services during further outbreaks or service disruptions.

Improving cancer surgery

The Strategy identified the need for faster, clearer, and more effective pathways from diagnosis to treatment, including access to high-quality surgery for cancer patients. In September 2020, on behalf of 11 Canadian surgical associations, the Partnership released the pan-Canadian Action Plan for cancer surgery. The Action Plan presents a unified approach, identifying key partners and providing guidance on coordinated efforts needed to deliver high-quality, efficient, and coordinated surgical cancer care. The pandemic has created new challenges for the delivery of surgical care. The Action Plan comes at an important time and will aim to drive innovation and a shift towards new models of care to safeguard the delivery of cancer surgery in Canada as health resources are stretched.

Reducing false positive screening results for breast cancer and unnecessary follow-ups

Abnormal call rates (ACRs) in breast cancer screening have been rising across Canada since 2014 with no change in cancer detection rates. This means more women are receiving false positive screening results and associated psychosocial harms, in addition to unnecessary follow-up tests. Through the Partnership’s funding and support of our network of experts, Canada’s breast cancer screening community recently released a Framework outlining six evidence-based approaches to guide pan-Canadian and jurisdictional efforts to reduce ACRs. If implemented, these approaches will see a reduction in ACRs in the coming years, which will, in turn, result in fewer false positives, fewer follow-up appointments and fewer interactions with the healthcare system during the pandemic and beyond.

Colorectal cancer screening for underserviced communities

The Strategy’s call to improve the reach of organized colorectal screening – and a reduction in colorectal cancer rates – is now being expedited with the move to direct-mail at-home screening tests, which will reduce the need for any healthcare system interaction. The Partnership is also investing $1.5 million in a multi-year initiative to help provinces and territories better identify populations who are under-screened for colorectal cancer and to work with local communities to remove barriers that prevent them from accessing these screening programs. As a first step, the Partnership provided jurisdictions with training on the use of geo-mapping to identify communities where colorectal screening rates are particularly low, and the Partnership will release a toolkit that provides evidence-based approaches for improving screening participation that can be adapted to suit specific populations and local contexts.

Other funding and support for innovative initiatives

In addition to these major areas of innovation to cancer care already funded and underway, the Partnership collaborates with the newly amalgamated organization that brings together the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement and Canadian Patient Safety Institute. The Paramedics and Palliative Care program expands the services provided by paramedics in the home to include palliative care, which will decrease patient visits to the hospital. The organizations are jointly funding $5.5 million. This program is part of ongoing efforts to improve Canada’s health system and ensure it responds to the needs of patients and families.

In addition, several traditional supports to cancer patients will now be replaced with virtual or alternate models of care, through $6.3 million in funding from the Partnership. Funding to Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network will support remote access to clinical trials. The Partnership will support the gathering and use by clinicians of Patient-Reported Outcomes through virtual means when in-person visits are not possible. This will ensure the care team remains informed and connected to patients and their needs throughout the cancer journey. Supporting people to quit smoking including cancer patients is now using virtual tobacco cessation counselling and at-home or other cost-effective and convenient dispensing of nicotine replacement therapies funded through $1.3 million investment by the Partnership.

Learn more about Innovating Against Cancer.

About the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

As the steward of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control (the Strategy), the Partnership works with Canada’s cancer community to take action to ensure fewer people get cancer, more people survive cancer and those living with the disease have a better quality of life. This work is guided by the Strategy, which was refreshed for 2019 to 2029 and will help drive measurable change for all Canadians affected by cancer. The Strategy includes eight priorities, which will tackle the most pressing challenges in cancer control as well as distinct First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples-specific priorities and actions reflecting Canada’s commitment to reconciliation. The Partnership will oversee the implementation of the priorities in collaboration with organizations and individuals on the front lines of cancer care – the provinces and territories, healthcare professionals, people living with cancer and those who care for them, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, governments and organizations, and its funder Health Canada. Learn more about the Partnership and the refreshed Strategy at


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