Four multinational, interdisciplinary teams selected to tackle major cancer challenges

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

The program funds ideas that have the greatest potential to advance cancer research and improve outcomes.

The Cancer Grand Challenges program will award $100 million to four interdisciplinary teams from around the world to solve some of the most difficult challenges in cancer research. Each team will receive $25 million over five years. The teams were announced at the Cancer Grand Challenges Summit on June 16, 2022 in Washington, DC

The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest funders of cancer research, teamed up to launch the Cancer Grand Challenges program. Cancer Grand Challenges aims to provide multiple funding rounds to multidisciplinary research teams from around the world whose new ideas have the greatest potential to advance cancer research and improve outcomes for people affected by cancer.

The research conducted by the four selected teams will include research into 1) a muscle-relaxing condition in cancer patients known as cachexia, 2) the biology of extrachromosomal DNA in cancer 3) new therapies for solid tumors in children, and 4) what triggers normal cells harboring cancer-causing mutations to become tumor cells.

“Partnering with Cancer Research UK to develop the projects funded for the Cancer Grand Challenges program will enable a global collaboration on a disease that has affected everyone around the world,” said Douglas R. Lowy, MD, Acting Director of NCI. “We are confident that these multidisciplinary teams of scientists — with the flexibility and scale to innovate and conduct groundbreaking research — will be able to address several critical cancer research issues that can advance the understanding of cancer and benefit patients. come.”

“Cancer is a global problem that requires global cooperation. By investing in team science on this scale, we will bring new thinking to problems that have stood in the way of progress for too long,” said David Scott, Ph.D., director of Cancer Grand Challenges, Cancer Research UK. “At its core, Cancer Grand Challenges provides multidisciplinary teams with the time, space and freedom to innovate and make progress against cancer that the world desperately needs. The new teams join a growing global community that is already making major discoveries, including unlocking new information about the tumor microenvironment and transforming our understanding of the early stages of disease development.”

A total of 169 research teams from more than 60 countries submitted preliminary proposals outlining how they would address one of the nine challenges of the Cancer Grand Challenges program. From those submissions, 11 teams were chosen by a group of experts – including input from a patient committee – to receive seed funding to develop their ideas into full proposals. From those proposals, four funded teams, representing four of the challenges, were selected.

The winning teams (with their chosen names) and challenges include:

  • The CANCAN team will investigate cancer cachexia as a tumor-driven syndrome. Cachexia is a debilitating muscle-wasting syndrome that dramatically affects the quality of life and survival of many people with advanced cancer. The team is led by Eileen White, Ph.D., Rutgers Institute of New Jersey; Marcus DaSilva Goncalves, MD, Ph.D., Weill Cornell Medicine, New York City; and Tobias Janowitz, MD, Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York.
  • The eDyNAmiC team is trying to gain insight into the production and action of extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA), which helps tumors to evolve and evade treatment. They are also developing new ways to address these mechanisms in cancer. The team is led by Paul Mischel, MD, Stanford University.
  • The NexTGen team will work to develop engineered T-cell therapies for childhood cancer. They will also investigate whether changing the tumor’s microenvironment can help make treatments more effective. The team is led by Catherine Bollard, MD, Children’s National Hospital, Washington, DC; and Martin Pule, University College London.
  • The PROMINENT team wants to discover what drives normal cells to become cancer to inform prevention. They will investigate how cancer-causing substances and other mutation-producing factors help to turn a normal cell into a tumor cell. The team is led by Allan Balmain, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco; Paul Brennan, Ph.D., International Agency for Research on Cancer; and Núria López Bigas, Ph.D., Institute of Research in Biomedicine Barcelona.

“Through this unique collaboration, Cancer Grand Challenges promotes scientific creativity of the highest order, prioritizing innovative ideas beyond what can be supported by more traditional mechanisms,” said Dinah S. Singer, Ph.D., associate professor NCI’s director for scientific strategy and development.

The next funding rounds of the NCI-Cancer Research UK partnership are planned for 2023 and 2025. For more information about the Cancer Grand Challenges program, visit

About the National Cancer Institute (NCI): NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH’s efforts to dramatically reduce cancer prevalence and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, visit: or call the NCI Contact Center, the Cancer Information Service, at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):NIH, the national medical research agency, comprises 27 institutes and centers and is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research, investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit:

NIH…Turning Discovery into Health

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