Cancer Grand Challenges
Our mission is to make transformative leaps in cancer research. By facilitating global collaboration and innovation we are taking on the toughest challenges that are blocking progress against cancer. Our end goal is to deliver the greatest benefit for patients and people affected by cancer around the world.
Through large-scale funding we are supporting a global network of scientific talent to find the solutions to these problems. No single discipline, laboratory or scientific community can do this on their own.
Cancer Grand Challenges is enabled through a global partnership between Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US, which began in 2020.
Together, we are creating a global network of like-minded individuals and organisations all working towards a common goal: accelerating progress against cancer.
Doing things differently
We’re taking a unique approach to solving cancer’s toughest problems. We set challenges, identified by our world-renowned scientific committee and invite the research community to tackle these in pursuit of life-changing discoveries.
Each step in the scientific process – identifying the challenges, reviewing the scientific proposals, supporting the best multidisciplinary teams – has been designed to foster high-impact research and scientific creativity.
Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute – the 2 largest funders of cancer research in the world – have united to define a new era in cancer research and discovery: Cancer Grand Challenges.
Watch the recording of our virtual launch and hear from Sir Paul Nurse (Chair of Cancer Grand Challenges Scientific Committee), Dr Ned E. Sharpless (Director, National Cancer Institute), and more of our scientific leaders.
Our global platform is connecting researchers, patients, philanthropists, foundations and funding agencies. The scale of our ambition requires equally ambitious investment in talent and resources.
You can be part of making this a reality. Join our global community and play a vital role in the fight against cancer.
Meet our scientists
Our Cancer Grand Challenges scientists are reaching across geographic boundaries and disciplines to assemble teams with unmatched expertise.
Professor Stephen Elledge, SPECIFICANCER
Understanding why cancers grow in some tissues and not in others
The SPECIFICANCER team is led by Professor Stephen Elledge and funded through a partnership between Cancer Research UK and the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. The team want to generate a comprehensive map of cancer drivers and their specificity to different tissues, they are are tackling the challenge 'Devise approaches to prevent or treat cancer based on mechanisms that determine tissue specificity of some cancer genes'.
Professor Thea Tlsty, STORMing Cancer
A new way to tackle inflammation-associated cancer
Professor Tlsty's STORMing Cancer team want to find novel ways of treating cancer that has been caused by inflammation, and develop new options to prevent cancer developing in high-risk patients with chronic inflammatory diseases. They are tackling the challenge 'Determine the mechanisms that cause cancer without known mutagenesis, such as obesity, in order to devise novel interventions'.
Professors Wendy Garrett and Matthew Meyerson, OPTIMISTICC
Manipulating the microbiome to beat bowel cancer
Professors Meyerson and Garrett's OPTIMISTICC team want to discover exactly how certain microbes inside the body lead to cancer development and influence a patient’s response to treatment. The are tackling the challenge 'Determine the mechanisms that cause cancer without known mutagenesis, such as obesity, in order to devise novel interventions'
Professor Mike Stratton, Mutographs
Identifying preventable causes of cancer
In a project of epic scale that spans 5 continents, Professor Stratton’s Mutographs team aim to build a deeper understanding of what causes DNA damage and how it leads to cancer. Their work could help prevent more cancers and reduce the global burden of this disease. They are tackling the challenge 'Discover how unusual patterns of mutation are induced by different cancer-causing events'.
Professor Greg Hannon, IMAXT
Creating virtual reality maps of tumours
Combining established techniques with new technology, Professor Hannon’s IMAXT team will build 3D tumours containing every cell in them, which can be studied using virtual reality. This new way of studying breast cancer could change how the disease is diagnosed, treated and managed. They are tackling the challenge 'Find a way of mapping tumours at the molecular and cellular level'.
Professor Jelle Wesseling, PRECISION
Preventing unnecessary breast cancer treatment
By studying tissue samples from women with DCIS (a condition which can sometimes develop into breast cancer), Professor Wesseling’s PRECISION team aims to determine how to distinguish between those who need treatment and those who don’t, which could spare thousands of women unnecessary treatment. The PRECISION team is funded through a partnership between Cancer Research UK and the Dutch Cancer Society, they are tackling the challenge 'Distinguish between lethal cancers that need treating, and non-lethal cancers that don’t'.
Professor Josephine Bunch, Rosetta
Studying tumour metabolism from every angle
Using various new mass spectrometry imaging techniques, the Rosetta team, led by Professor Bunch, will develop a new way to map tumours in unprecedented detail – from the whole tumour to the individual molecules in cells. The work could lead to new ways to diagnose and treat cancer. The team are tackling the challenge 'Find a way of mapping tumours at the molecular and cellular level'.