Cancer Grand Challenges Celebrates New Teams Joining World-Class Scientific Community

Half-billion-dollar cancer research initiative awards new teams a total of $100M to drive scientific creativity

Collaborative research initiative co-founded by NCI and CRUK announces new teams to take on cancer’s toughest challenges with $100M investment

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Cancer Grand Challenges, a global research funding initiative co-founded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), today announced four new world-leading teams of scientists and patient advocates who will each receive $25M to take on some of cancer’s toughest challenges.

With this latest investment totaling $100M, and the new teams spanning 30 institutes and five countries, the initiative brings a global community of diverse, world-class research teams together to think differently and drive progress against some of cancer’s toughest challenges. Finding more effective treatments for children with solid tumors and improving quality of life for patients experiencing cachexia are among the challenges being tackled.

A Unique Approach

Cancer Grand Challenges’ bold, challenge-based approach to funding encourages researchers from different backgrounds to transcend traditional boundaries of geography and discipline. The challenges set are the obstacles that continue to hold back progress and recognize that no one scientist, institution or country will be able to solve them alone.

“Cancer is a global issue that demands global collaboration. By investing in team science at this scale, we will bring new thinking to address problems that have for too long stood in the way of progress,” said Dr. David Scott, Director of Cancer Grand Challenges, Cancer Research UK.

“At its core, Cancer Grand Challenges provides multidisciplinary teams the time, space and freedom to innovate and drive progress against cancer that the world urgently needs. The new teams announced today join a growing global community already making major discoveries, including unlocking new information about the tumor microenvironment and transforming our understanding of the early stages of disease development.”

The Challenges: Areas of Research

Each of the four teams, made up of some of the world’s brightest minds and hailing from world-leading institutions, will receive $25M to unlock new discoveries and advance discoveries to address some of the toughest challenges in cancer research:

  • Solid Tumors in Children: Survival for children with solid cancers, including sarcomas and brain tumors, has seen little improvement in more than 30 years. This research aims to develop more effective treatments for children with solid tumors by bringing engineered T cell therapies into routine treatment. Team leads are Martin Pule, University College London and Catherine Bollard, George Washington University Children’s National Hospital.
  • Cachexia: Cachexia is a debilitating wasting condition many people with cancer experience in the later stages of their disease. The development of new treatments has the ability to improve quality of life and outcomes for patients, while establishing a benchmark for global care. Team leads are Eileen White, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; Marcus DaSilva Goncalves, Weill Cornell Medicine; and Tobias Janowitz, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
  • Extrachromosomal DNA: EcDNA – small, circular pieces of genetic information that don’t follow the rules of normal DNA and are found in approximately one-third of cancers – provide tumors a way to evolve and become resistant to treatment. This research seeks to get to the bottom of ecDNA and find ways to “drug the undruggable,” potentially opening an entirely new avenue of cancer treatment. Team lead is Paul Mischel, Stanford Medicine.
  • Tumor Development: What keeps healthy cells healthy, and what triggers a cell to become cancerous? This research will build on recent findings that suggest the answers are more complex than originally thought, including how cells can remain seemingly ‘normal’ despite carrying many cancer-causing mutations in their DNA. With this information, the team will develop a roadmap of the early stages of cancer development to find new ways to prevent cancer before it starts. Team leads are Allan Balmain, University of California, San Francisco; Paul Brennan, International Agency for Research on Cancer; and Nuria Lopez-Bigas, Institute for Research in Biomedicine Barcelona.

For more information on teams, team members and their approach to tackling these challenges, visit

Shared Vision: Global Partners

Along with its founding partners, the National Cancer Institute and Cancer Research UK, Cancer Grand Challenges leverages support from partners across the globe who share the same vision to fuel scientific discovery through collaboration. Supporting partners of Cancer Research UK for this round of funding include The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research and the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer.

“The hallmark of a Cancer Grand Challenge is an obstacle that’s just out of our grasp. Some push the frontiers of our knowledge, while others seek to break down barriers that have slowed progress for decades. All hold the potential to drive forward advances at a scale that could transform outcomes for people with cancer,” said Professor Sir David Lane, chair of the Cancer Grand Challenges scientific committee. “We’re delighted to be working with a global network of partners who share our aspirations to drive change, supporting four new teams to take on four of the most important challenges in cancer research.”

“Our commitment to establishing research networks that stimulate scientific creativity is the foundation for our investment and support of Cancer Grand Challenges. Growing a diverse community of global scientists is an important component in tackling some of the toughest challenges in cancer research,” said Dr. Dinah Singer, Deputy Director for Scientific Strategy and Development, National Cancer Institute. “We are confident that the cancer research undertaken by these four innovative international teams will drive progress and transformation to improve health and benefit people across the globe.”

Building a Legacy: Past Teams’ Impact

The four new Cancer Grand Challenges teams add to a growing community of investigators daring to take on cancer’s toughest challenges – now 700+ researchers, advocates and partners across 10 countries and 68 research institutions. Over the past two years, major discoveries from the community include:

  • The development of the world’s first virtual reality cancer laboratory, which allows researchers to interact with 3D maps of cancer to study every cell within a tumor. This entirely novel way to study cancer will allow researchers on different sides of the globe to collaborate within the virtual lab, revolutionizing the way we study cancer and diagnose and treat the disease.
  • New information about the correlation between gut microorganisms and bowel cancer. This information, collected from a first-of-its-kind study of individuals with bowel cancer in multiple countries, could transform our ability to detect and diagnose the disease at an earlier stage, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

The Process: Taking on a Cancer Grand Challenge

Every two years, a rigorous, grassroots process is conducted to identify the toughest challenges in cancer research. This process is led by a committee of world-leading scientists, chaired by Professor Sir David Lane. Global research teams are dared to come together, think differently, and consider how they would take on these challenges. For this round of challenges, nearly 2,000 individuals across 169 teams and 10 countries applied for funding.

Cancer Grand Challenges will begin the process for the next round of challenges in late 2022 and will open for applications for funding in 2023.

About Cancer Grand Challenges

Co-founded in 2020 by two of the largest funders of cancer research in the world, Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute, Cancer Grand Challenges supports a global community of diverse, world-class research teams to come together, think differently and take on some of cancer’s toughest challenges. These are the obstacles that continue to impede progress and no one scientist, institution or country will be able to solve them alone. With awards of up to $25M, Cancer Grand Challenges teams are empowered to rise above the traditional boundaries of geography and discipline to make the progress against cancer we urgently need.

About Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research, influence and information. Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen cancer survival rates in the UK double in the last 40 years. Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK wants to accelerate progress and see 3 in 4 people surviving their cancer by 2034. Cancer Research UK supports research into the prevention and treatment of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses. Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK is working toward a world where people can live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer.


Gina Fasolo


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