Grand Challenge awards to overcome the most difficult problems in cancer research

Cambridge scientists win £40 million from Cancer Research UK to bring the brightest minds to the biggest problems in cancer research.

Cambridge scientists have landed two of the biggest funding grants ever awarded by Cancer Research UK, with the charity set to invest £40 million over the next five years in two ground-breaking research projects in the city.

The funding will come from the first Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge awards – set up to help scientists solve some of the hardest unanswered questions in cancer research, and to revolutionise the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

In total, four grants were available and teams based at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute beat stiff international competition to secure two of them.

Being awarded not one but two of the most prestigious grants in Cancer Research UK’s history is a huge boost to the research community in the city.

One of the Cambridge Grand Challenge projects is lead by Professor Greg Hannon at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. He and collaborators from the US, Canada, Switzerland and Ireland have an ambitious plan to create a virtual reality 3D tumours so that scientists can look inside and study all the different cancer cells in detail.

Another Cambridge project to receive a Grand Challenge award is lead by Professor Sir Mike Stratton at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. His team of collaborators from France and the US will be investigating the mutational signatures of different cancers to try to discover what causes them.

The Cambridge projects were selected by an international panel of experts from a shortlist of nine exceptional, multi-disciplinary collaborations from universities, institutes and industry across the globe.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Cancer Research UK set up the Grand Challenge awards to bring a renewed focus and energy to the fight against cancer. We want to shine a light on the toughest questions that stand in the way of progress. We’re incredibly excited to be able to support these exceptional teams as they help us achieve our ambition.

“Cancer is a global problem, and these projects are part of the global solution. Together, we will redefine cancer – turning it from a disease that so many people die from, to one that many people can live with. We will reduce the number of people worldwide affected by cancer and achieve our goal of beating cancer sooner.”

The funding awards are only possible thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the UK public. Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research, meaning every step its doctors, nurses and scientists make towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from individuals and groups, as well as the tireless fundraising of supporters.

There are lots of different ways people in the East can continue to support pioneering research into cancer, including signing up to one of the many Race for Life events taking place across the region, volunteering at a local Cancer Research UK shop, or taking on a sporting challenge such as a 10k run, marathon or triathlon.

Danielle Glavin, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the East, said: “The Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge award announcement marks the start of a five-year programme in Cambridge to reduce the burden of cancer with a scale and approach never seen before.

“It’s a significant achievement for the city that two out of the four projects chosen to receive the Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge awards are led by scientists based here.

“People in the East have every right to feel proud of the ground-breaking cancer research taking place on their doorstep, and of their fundraising efforts that allow us to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”

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10 Feb 2017