The Lung Cancer Innovation Challenge

Helping Fight Lung Cancer Together

Did you know that the survival rate of lung cancer is among the lowest of all types of cancer?1 Last year alone, Canada had approximately 30,000 new cases of lung cancer and lost more than 21,000 people to the disease.1 Of the new diagnoses, 35 per cent were in Ontario.2 Alarmingly, approximately half of all lung cancer cases are diagnosed at Stage 4, further worsening chances of survival.1

Despite the availability of today’s innovative medicines, improving outcomes for Canadian lung cancer patients requires further research, collaboration, and commitment.

“At Merck Canada, our vision has always been to make a difference in patients’ lives through cutting-edge research and innovation. Through collaboration with innovative partners who have the same vision we do, we can help deliver the best that science has to offer to patients and their loved ones across Canada.”

Marwan Akar,

President and Managing Director, Merck Canada

Here and Now

At Merck Canada, we are on a mission to save and improve lives. We have a crucial role to play in our healthcare system by driving change and collaborating with others. Together, we believe we can make a difference. That’s why we teamed up with MaRS for the Lung Cancer Innovation Challenge.

Our work aims to improve outcomes for people living with lung cancer by challenging Ontario-based innovators to identify, implement, and scale solutions that can reduce the time between diagnosis and treatment, especially for priority patient groups (e.g., rural and lower socioeconomic populations).

As a hub for best-in-class life sciences talent, Ontario accounts for more than half of Canada’s research and development spending in the life sciences sector. At this important moment in the history of lung cancer treatment, we believe this Challenge can help make a meaningful, transformative difference.

About the challenge winners

We are proud to support the winners of the Lung Cancer Innovation Challenge:
Kingston Health Sciences Centre in first place and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, runner up winner.

Kingston Health Sciences Centre logo

First place: $100,000 prize

Kingston Health Sciences Centre

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre team won the competition with their solution to launch an outreach clinic in the Lennox and Addington County General Hospital, a community hospital located in a rural region of South Eastern Ontario, to help rural communities in this region gain quicker access to lung cancer assessments.

“Our team is composed of a multidisciplinary group of individuals with expertise in quality improvement and epidemiology, and we’re constantly looking for opportunities to collaborate and improve through innovation. Together, we’ve launched several innovative system solutions to address local delays in lung cancer care during the diagnostic phase. We would like to thank this challenge for giving us a platform to present our proposal for this new outreach program, which will help more Ontarians diagnosed with lung cancer get timely access to specialized care.” - Dr. Geneviève C. Digby, Respirologist, Clinical Lead for the Diagnostic Assessment Programs at KHSC and team representative.

UHN Princess Margaret Cancer Centre logo

Runner Up: $50,000 prize

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

The Lung Cancer Site Group at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre team won with their proposal to significantly reduce the time between diagnosis and treatment for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Their solution proposes the use of a liquid biopsy versus the conventional diagnostic pathway of molecular testing of tumour tissue after imaging and biopsy.

“Our team at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is passionate about getting the right treatment to the right person as soon as possible. We are testing whether our solution to incorporate liquid biopsy into our Lung Cancer Rapid Assessment and Management Program will help get patients to treatment faster, with fewer delays and avoiding extra tests. This could change the way we diagnose lung cancer in Ontario, and have a positive impact for patients.” - Dr. Natasha B. Leighl, Thoracic Medical Oncology Site Lead, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and team representative

“Our congratulations go out to Dr. Digby, Dr. Parker and everyone involved in bringing the Lung Diagnostic Assessment Program to Napanee. “It’s very exciting to see this next stage of their idea in the field, and how they will be delivering a solution that can help patients receive optimal care as quickly as possible.”

Marwan Akar,

President and Managing Director, Merck Canada

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre team opened the new clinic on November 25th, 2021 out of the Lennox and Addington County General Hospital. Learn more from the team behind the clinic about what inspired their winning solution.



1 Canadian Cancer Society. Canadian Cancer Statistics: A 2020 special report on lung cancer. Available from:

2 Cancer Care Ontario. Ontario Cancer Statistics 2020. Available from: