Cambridge scientists to work on £20 million Grand Challenge project

Cambridge scientists to work on £20 million Grand Challenge project

Cambridge scientists are set to play a key role in a multimillion pound Cancer Research UK project which aims to revolutionise the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The group at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute will collaborate with a team of international researchers on a £20 million ‘Grand Challenge’ research project, looking at new ways to tackle cancers linked to chronic inflammation.

The project was selected for the funding by an international panel of experts considering a shortlist of ten exceptional, multi-disciplinary collaborations from universities, institutes and industry across the globe.

Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge was established to help scientists attack some of the hardest, unanswered questions in cancer research.

The team at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute will be led by Dr Doug Winton and is set to receive over £1.4 million over the next five years as part of the global project.

They will work with scientists in London, the USA, Canada and Israel to help unravel how chronic inflammation is linked to cancer.

Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. Chemicals released by white blood cells help protect the body from damaged cells, foreign substances or infections. Chronic inflammation can be caused by several factors such as viral and bacterial infections (including colitis), being overweight or lack of exercise, which can lead to diseases such as cancer.

It is suggested that up to 1 in 4 cancers globally are linked to inflammation.

Recent work shows that the cells surrounding cancers can control whether or not the cancer grows or disappears. The aim is to determine whether it’s possible to treat those cells rather than treating the cancer cells directly.

The scientists want to find new approaches to treatment - from repurposing everyday anti-inflammatory drugs, to designing cells that target cancer-promoting tissues.

The group will use mouse models to test these new therapies.

Dr Doug Winton, Group Leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: “We are very excited to be collaborating on this pioneering project which unites different kinds of researchers - biologists, physicists and engineers – who can challenge the way we currently treat cancer caused by inflammation.

“This research has the potential to increase our ability to prevent this type of cancer in high-risk patients. The scale of the project is huge and would not be possible without the Grand Challenge funding.”

Danielle Glavin, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Cambridge, said: “Grand Challenge gives us the perfect opportunity to address complex questions and cross new frontiers in our understanding of cancer, to transform the lives of patients.

“We’re excited to be able to fund such innovative research which brings cancer experts in Cambridge together with their counterparts in the USA, Canada, Israel and London.

“People in Cambridge have every right to feel proud of the world-class research taking place on their doorstep and of their fundraising efforts, which are helping to beat cancer.”

22 Jan 2019