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National Grants Survey Results

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s next national grants priority – the focus of upcoming collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer Canada.


In early 2014 CBCF conducted an online survey that asked: 

“What do you believe is the most pressing question regarding breast cancer that could be investigated through research.” 

The survey was intended to collect opinions that would be considered as part of determining the next priorities for the CBCF National Grants Program. It explored opinions on categories of research, based on the Common Scientific Outline, and on broad research questions, derived from the priority areas of the National Breast Cancer Research Framework


Survey Says: New Treatments!

Download the
Survey Results Infographic

The highest priority research question, based on survey responses was: Can we develop new medicines, treatments, and/or clinical procedures that have fewer side effects, will lessen the impact of the disease, stop the spread of the disease, rid the disease from the body, and/or even immunize against the cancer’s return. This priority was identified as high priority by 90% of respondents, 7% more frequently than the next highest priority, which involved biomolecular methods for earlier detection of breast cancer (83%). The full ranking of research questions can be viewed at the bottom of the page. 

The category of research that most respondents wanted to see funded was: Understanding the causes of breast cancer and how to prevent it (corresponding to common scientific outline categories involving Etiology and Prevention). When asked to allocate hypothetical dollars, this category received 29% of the possible allocation, 7% higher than the next highest category - new treatments for breast cancer (22%). 

Overall, while the results demonstrate a surprisingly high-level of consensus on top priorities, they also support the idea that as a group, CBCF research stakeholders have broad interests that span all the categories of research and all the research questions. The chart below provides the two research questions and two research categories most selected as high priority across CBCF Regions and categories with which respondents self-identified. Full details on the ranking of all questions and categories is provided at bottom.

National Research Priorities

CBCF National
Research Questions​
Highest Priority ​New treatments
​     % of total ​90 %
​Second Highest Priority ​New indicators
     % of total ​83 %
Categories of Research ​​​
Highest Category ​Understanding the causes
     % of total 29 %
Second Highest Category ​Discovering and testing treatments
     % of total 23 %

Regional Research Priorities

​CBCF Region BC/Yukon ​Prairies/NWT Ontario Atlantic Quebec
Research Questions​
Highest Priority ​New treatments ​New treatments ​New treatments ​New treatments ​New treatments
​     % of total ​91 % ​92 % ​90 % ​87 % ​92%
​Second Highest Priority ​New indicators ​New indicators ​New indicators ​New indicators ​New indicators
     % of total 83 % 84 % 83 % 83 % 87%
Categories of Research ​​​
Highest Category ​Understanding the causes ​Discovering and testing treatments ​Understanding the causes ​Understanding the causes Understanding the causes
     % of total 31 % 26 % 29 % 32 % ​19%
Second Highest Category ​Discovering and testing treatments ​Understanding the causes ​Finding breast cancer earlier ​Discovering and testing treatments Discovering and testing treatments
     % of total 22 % 25.6 % 21 % 21 % ​16%

About the Survey Response

More than 4000 people responded to the survey, which was sent to donors, volunteers, survivors, and other individuals who have previously registered their contact information with the Foundation. 

Responses came from across the country, including respondents from 10 Provinces and 1 Territory, and from people of all ages and stakeholder groups. 

Most respondents were female (92%) and most responses were from people aged 50-59 (31% of respondents). Priority preference results for research questions were statistically significant at 95% confidence. 


Next Steps

The results of this pan-Canadian survey were deliberated by the CBCF National Grants Committee along with other research investment considerations, including partnering opportunities. The result was a decision to make identifying new treatments for breast cancer the focus of the 2014 National Grants competition while continuing to invest in prevention research capacity development. 

CBCF was pleased to be able to act immediately to recognize the priority identified through the survey, and through the National Grants program is making a major commitment to fund research on new treatments for breast cancer. With the support of our long term sponsor CIBC, CBCF collaborated with Stand Up To Cancer Canada (SU2C Canada) to identify research that will bring together some of Canada’s best research minds to bring new treatments to patients in the next 4 years.


​National Ranking
​Priorities by Area (Survey questions)
1 ​Can we develop new medicines, treatments, and/or surgical procedures that have fewer side effects, will lessen the impact of the disease, stop the spread of the disease, rid the disease from the body, and/or even immunize against the cancer’s return?
​2 ​Can we discover new indicators or signals that could warn of the presence of breast cancer and can we turn them into a lab test? For example, imagine a lab test for breast cancer that works like pregnancy test.
​3 ​How does breast cancer get started?
​4 ​How can we improve our ability to see breast cancer earlier, more accurately, and with a better understanding of what we are seeing? For example, can we improve existing, or develop new imaging tools (e.g. computer aided mammography)?
5 ​How can we make sure that new discoveries and research evidence are incorporated into the healthcare system?
​6 ​What steps need to be taken to improve the lives and life-span of those who have had breast cancer?
7 ​What factors contribute to the likelihood of getting breast cancer? For example, can we learn more about whether changes in diet, exercise, lifestyle, and exposure to environmental factors have an impact on the risk of developing breast cancer?
8 ​How does the interaction between our genes and environmental factors (e.g. chemicals, including those that mimic estrogen) contribute to the causes of breast cancer?
9 ​How does breast cancer spread in the body?
​10 How does the interaction between our genes and hormones (e.g. estrogen) contribute to the causes of breast cancer?​
​11 ​Can we develop better tools for breast cancer research (such as improving simulations or developing new cellular models) that will better predict whether new treatments and interventions will work in people, and thereby increase safety and reduce the cost and time to develop new medicines and interventions?
​12 ​How does family history and inherited genetic information play a role in breast cancer risk, and can this information be used to customize treatment strategies?
​13 ​Can we make existing treatments work better by using them in new combinations?
14 ​How well do existing treatments and medicines, including those used for other diseases, work for treating breast cancer?
​15 ​What are the challenges and barriers (e.g. social, financial, administrative, geographical) to delivering breast cancer care, and how can we reduce barriers, increase access, and improve outcomes?
​16 How can we make better use of information collected by our health care system, to understand how the disease and its treatment affect populations of people?​

​National Ranking ​Research Categories
​1 ​Understanding the causes of breast cancer and how to prevent it
​2 ​Discovering and testing treatments for breast cancer
​3 ​Finding breast cancer earlier
​4 ​Understanding the biology of breast cancer
​5 ​Developing better tools for breast cancer research
​6 ​Understanding the health care system for breast cancer patients
National survey results in detail Ontario survey results in detail
Atlantic survey results in detail Prairies/NWT survey results in detail
BC/Yukon survey results in detail

Thank you again to all those who completed the National Research Priority Survey.

Watch for more announcements on the upcoming grant competition in October!