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Rare Cancers

Understanding the key facts and figures about rare cancer research.

Rare cancers are a loose group of cancers with one unifying characteristic: they affect a small number of people. These cancers often start in an unusual place in the body or are subtypes of more common cancers that behave differently and therefore require special treatment. There are currently no reliable statistics on the numbers of Canadians diagnosed with rare cancers.

Rare cancers have distinct characteristics that make them interesting to study. However, the study of rare cancers tends to be underfunded.

Today, poor understanding of the basic biology of rare cancers, high-mortality rates and ineffective treatments make these diseases a pressing health issue in Canada.

Our Research Strategy

Given these challenges, the Terry Fox Research Institute has embarked on a multi-pronged strategy to fund the best rare cancer scientific teams and programs in the country.

In 2022/23, roughly 6 per cent of the money invested by the TFRI supported research into rare cancers. This added up to a total investment of $827,000.*

To allocate its resources, the Institute has international experts evaluate the excellence and the potential for impact of all its research projects. This approach distinguishes our research investment strategy from all others in Canada and allows donors to be confident that their investment is supporting the top 5% of Canadian researchers and their science.

*Our scientific discovery projects are interdisciplinary by design and often focus on more than one cancer type. The figures listed above are an estimate and should not be taken as exact figures.