Global Collaboration Addresses Unanswered Questions in Cancer Research


The NCI and Cancer Research UK are coming together to improve cancer care around the world.

Cancer collaboration will now stretch across the pond, as the National Cancer Institute (NCI) — a part of the National Institutes of Health – and Cancer Research UK will fund the Cancer Grand Challenges. The initiative will tackle unaddressed questions in the oncology space by bringing together multidisciplinary teams from around the globe.

“This new partnership leverages the expertise of the world’s leading funders of cancer research in a bold effort to identify and pursue innovative ideas that address major challenges in understanding cancer,” said NCI Director Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, MD, in a statement from the NCI. “We’re thrilled to join Cancer Research UK in this unique collaboration to support novel cancer research on a global scale.”

Cancer Research UK launched the Grand Challenges initiative in 2015, which is currently funding 7 teams of researchers in 9 different countries. Research awards were given to teams for the following projects:

  • researching preventable causes of cancer
  • the creation of virtual reality maps of tumors
  • preventing unnecessary breast cancer treatment
  • studying tumor metabolism
  • understanding why cancers grow in some tissues, and not others
  • treating inflammation-associated cancer
  • manipulating the microbiome to treat bowel cancer

Now, with input from the NCI, the two organizations will announce the new list of challenges in October 2020. Once researchers are chosen for the challenges, the NCI and Cancer Research UK together will fund about 3 awards for each round of Cancer Grand Challenges. Each team will be given approximately $25 million over the course of 5 years.

After the challenges are announced, researchers will have until April 2021 to submit their interest in working on one. The teams will be selected and interviewed between June and December 2021, and then final teams will be publicly announced in 2022.

“Many of the ongoing Grand Challenge awards align with NCI research priorities, and our missions overlap in many ways,” said Dinah S. Singer, PhD, NCI deputy director for scientific strategy and development, in the statement. “This initiative will expand opportunities to identify new challenges based on insights from the cancer research community and to further our understanding of cancer. We’re looking forward to the new ideas proposed by creative teams from around the world.”

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