Closed Grand Challenges

Grand Challenge is the most ambitious cancer research initiative in the world. It's a series of £20 million awards, given to teams willing to take on the toughest challenges in cancer. 

We've launched a total of 15 challenges since 2015. And we've received applications to tackle them from teams across the world.  

So far, we've funded 7 teams across 6 of the challenges. You can find out more information about challenges teams are tackling below. As well as information on other challenges which teams aren't currently working on. 

Teams are tackling these Grand Challenges right now

Unusual mutation patterns


We’d like to stop cancer before it starts – prevention is better than cure. However, we don’t yet know all the individual events that can induce cancer, and we need to better understand the effects on our DNA of the cancer-causing events we already know about.

Funded team: MUTOGRAPHS (2017) 

Tissue specificity

Different mistakes in DNA can cause different types of cancer. What scientists don’t know is why these errors cause cancer in those specific organs and not others. If scientists can figure out how certain cancer genes cause particular types of cancer, they may be able to find ways to prevent these cancers developing, and new ways to treat them.

Funded team: SPECIFICANCER (2019) 

3D tumour mapping


Tumours aren’t just composed of cancer cells – they contain a complete life support system, called the tumour microenvironment, without which the cancer cells wouldn’t survive. If we could pull the plug on the tumour’s life support, it would kill it –  but first, we need to identify the crucial components.

Funded teams: IMAXT (2017), Rosetta (2017) 

Cancer causes

If scientists and doctors can fully understand how obesity and other lifestyle factors cause different types of cancer, that could help prevent, diagnose and treat these diseases. That’s why we’re putting this Grand Challenge to the world’s researchers. 

Funded team: STORMing Cancer (2019)


Lethal versus non-lethal

Our methods for detecting cancer simply aren’t good enough. We need to detect the disease at an early stage, but the diagnosis needs to be more sensitive and accurate too, otherwise we risk missing cancers that cause serious harm, and over-treating those that won’t.

Funded team: PRECISION (2017) 


Scientists have shown that microbiota can play a role in how cancers develop. This includes damaging DNA or altering how the immune system responds to cancer cells. They’ve also shown that the microbiota can affect how patients respond to certain treatments. But it’s not clear exactly how these microbes do this. 

Funded team: OPTIMISTICC (2019) 


Other closed Grand Challenges

We're not currently funding teams to work on the challenges below. 

Deep learning

Artificial intelligence

We’re generating, collecting and sharing more information than ever before, and this includes information that may be tied to our health. Could doctors use hints from prescription records, online searches or social media activity to detect cancer earlier?

Vaccinology illustration

Tumour vaccinology

The body’s immune system is a powerful force that is constantly fighting disease to keep us healthy. But cancers often work out a way to get around it.



It’s believed that cancer cells that weren’t killed by initial treatment can go to sleep, lying dormant before a new chance to grow kicks in. But what causes some cancer cells to go sleep, or where they hide when they’re asleep, is unknown.

Treatment regimens

Treatment regimens

While some cancer cells are killed by treatment, others can survive. The cancer cells that aren’t destroyed can continue to grow, forming a tumour again. To get around this, doctors often give different treatments in combination. If we better understand how treatments work together, we can make sure patients get the best combinations for their disease.


Biological macromolecules

We want to revolutionise cancer treatment so we can kill tumours more effectively than ever before. So-called ‘macromolecules’ are potentially the most powerful drugs we have – but we don’t yet have a good way of getting them into the body

Eradicating EBV

Eradicate EBV cancers

Each year 200,000 cancers worldwide are caused by Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). We want to find a way to reduce that figure to zero.

Prevention vaccines

Prevention vaccines

The power of the immune system is already being used to treat cancer. Now we'd like to see vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing in the first place.

Targeting Myc

Targeting Myc

More than 7 in 10 cancer cases depend on the mutant Myc gene to survive, and there’s no treatment that works against it.