Scientists shortlisted for major cancer award

CRUK Grand Challenges

A team of scientists from the University of Leeds has been shortlisted to the final stages of Cancer Research UK's Grand Challenge.

The Cancer Research UK's £20 million Grand Challenge fund will be invested in projects tackling some of the toughest questions in cancer.

The Leeds’ researchers, working with collaborators in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Spain, want to try and identify the role that bacteria and viruses that live in the intestines play in the development of bowel cancer.

It is known that micro-organisms play a part in keeping the body healthy but scientists believe the microbes also cause disease, and can influence the way patients respond to cancer treatments.

The consortium will be up against nine other shortlisted international partnerships. The successful project or projects will be announced in the autumn. 

Philip Quirke, Professor of Pathology at the University of Leeds, said: “Every day in the UK, 110 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer – and it is the fourth most common type of cancer.

“Our proposal, if successful, will bring together teams of leading scientists from five countries to bear down on a problem that causes a significant health burden.

“The aim is to understand the role micro-organisms play in the development of bowel cancer. That will hopefully give us an insight into ways that we could try and prevent the disease - and to open up new treatment options, possibly by being able to manipulate the make-up of the bacteria and viruses that live in the gut.”

The consortium involving Leeds will receive up to £30,000 in ‘seed’ funding to finalise its research proposal.

The aim of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge is to revolutionise cancer treatment by encouraging international teams to work together and to ‘think big’ and try new approaches to research. 

This is the second round of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge award and last year four teams received up to £20 million each.

Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said: “Round two of Grand Challenge is proving to be incredibly inspiring and the ambitious applications reflect the quality of global researchers this initiative has attracted to beat cancer sooner.

“We’re delighted with the teams we’ve shortlisted and look forward to hearing more about how they plan to tackle the toughest challenges in cancer research.”

Dr Rick Klausner, chair of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge advisory panel, said: “The challenges set for Grand Challenge have once again attracted some of the best researchers in the world. I’m looking forward to see how global collaboration could bring together diverse expertise, invigorate areas of research, and overcome barriers in ways that aren’t happening at this point in time.”