Grand Challenge:
Distinguish between lethal cancers that need treating, and non-lethal cancers that don’t

Principal Investigator:
Prof. Freddie Hamdy (University of Oxford)

Dr David Wedge (Big Data Institute, University of Oxford)
Prof. Tapio Visakorpi (BioMediTech)
Dr Andrew Vickers (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center)
Prof. Charles Swanton (Francis Crick Institute/University College London)
Prof. Ros Eeles (The Institute of Cancer Research)
Johann de Bono (The Institute of Cancer Research)
Prof. Colin Cooper (University of East Anglia)
Prof George Bova (Tampere University)

Patient Representative:
Not yet confirmed


Since 2001, Professor Freddie Hamdy has been leading one of the largest prostate cancer treatment trials in the world. Now, he’s poised to lead a team to address one of the biggest challenges in the world: how to distinguish between a lethal prostate cancer and one that doesn’t need treatment.

The team brings unparalleled access to patient samples and data from several of the world’s largest and longest-running prostate cancer trials. The answer to what is distinct about a lethal prostate cancer is almost certain to be found within.

The team will combine detailed molecular analysis of existing samples with novel lines of investigation in new patient groups – aiming to understand what biological features are present at the earliest point when cancer spreads or becomes resistant to treatment.

The overall goal is to reduce unnecessary treatment of ‘safe’ cancers, and ensure rapid and thorough treatment of those likely to be lethal. The team hope to develop and test a ‘molecular checklist’ of features that will make this a reality.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common, but also most controversial cancers to manage. We are now set to answer the most difficult question of all: How can we recognise aggressive disease as early as possible, in order to treat the right patient, at the right time, with the right treatment option? With this exciting world-leading team and unprecedented material from thousands of generous patients, we will rise to this challenge put to us by Cancer Research UK.

Prof. Freddie Hamdy, University of Oxford

This proposal is unique as it brings together a combination of techniques, disciplines and expertise which could only be funded together through a scheme like Grand Challenge. Its comprehensive approach from molecular level to clinical outcomes is exciting and makes patient benefit feel just around the corner.

Sir David Lane, Director A*Star

For years now, many of those unfortunate to have the disease have had to undergo radical invasive treatment that may not be necessary but this team’s ‘molecular checklist’ could help make this a thing of the past.

Terry Kavanagh, Grand Challenge Patient Advisory Panel

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