Cancer Research UK, the world's largest nonprofit research organization, has announced the inaugural winners of its global Grand Challenge competition, which is designed to identity and address critical issues in cancer research.
Through the inaugural round of the competition, four teams comprising researchers from six prominent U.S. institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the MD Anderson Cancer Center, will share approximately $87 million (£71 million) in funding. Led by a panel of world-leading researchers chaired by Rick Klausner, former director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the initiative revised its original plan to award £20 million annually to a single team for five years after evaluating the quality of the submissions it received and then secured a partnership with the Dutch Cancer Society and an anonymous overseas donor to fund up to four proposals.
Projects to be funded in phase one of the competition include an initiative to develop a virtual reality 3D tumor map that enables scientists and doctors to examine the cellular and molecular makeup of a patient's entire tumor, thereby improving diagnosis and treatment of the disease; a study of DNA samples from five continents, with the goal of better understanding the DNA damage associated with different cancers and how they can be prevented; an effort to distinguish between women with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ, which can develop into cancer) who need treatment and those who don't, with the goal of reducing overtreatment of the condition; and a project to combine new and existing technologies to create virtual representations of tumors as well as a global database that catalogs their genetic makeup and metabolism.
"When we began the Grand Challenge, we sought scientific adventurers — people willing to come together in new ways, to think differently, and bring novel approaches to answer the big questions in cancer," said Klausner. "These unique teams have done just that. Cancer is a complex, and often brutal disease. Cancer Research UK's Grand Challenge is helping us change the way we to tackle it — bringing together different disciplines, ideas, and people on a global scale. We've got our sights set on the horizon of discovery, and I’m confident these Grand Challenge teams will lead to life-changing results."