The finalists seeking £20m to take on cancer’s toughest challenges – Cancer Research UK

The 12 teams competing for up to £20m ($25m) each to take on some of the most complex problems in cancer were announced today by Cancer Grand Challenges, the funding initiative we co-founded with the National Cancer Institute in the US.  

The round four Cancer Grand Challenges shortlist includes a group studying metabolism to identify how obesity fuels certain cancers, one using cutting-edge neuroscience to reduce the side effects of some of our most effective cancer drugs, and another with a plan to build an unprecedented database for understanding cancer inequities. 

After the 9 new challenges were announced in March 2023, the Cancer Grand Challenges Scientific Committee reviewed a total of 178 applications from international teams looking to take them on.  

Their 12-team shortlist covers 8 of those original challenges and spans 84 institutions in 18 countries, uniting more than 130 world-class investigators and researchers. 

“We had a fantastic response from the global research community who rose to the task and submitted bold and innovative ideas to take on our new challenges,” said Dr David Scott, the director of Cancer Grand Challenges. 

“We are pleased to have a shortlist of 12 teams whose proposed research approaches we believe hold the greatest potential to make the progress against these cancer challenges that we urgently need. I’m looking forward to seeing how the teams develop their approaches further in their full applications.” 

Spotlight on children and young people’s cancers

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and two of the shortlisted teams, PROTECT and KOODAC, are aiming to develop new ways to treat solid tumours in children.  

These cancers are driven by different genetic changes, or mutations, than adult tumours. That means the lifesaving advances we’ve made in treating adult cancers with drugs that specifically target the mutations behind them haven’t translated to solid tumours in children.  

In fact, the proteins that drive childhood cancers have traditionally been considered ‘undruggable’. These two teams have the ideas, expertise and technologies we need to change that.  

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