Oxford team shortlisted for Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge award

A multi-disciplinary team of scientists led by Oxford University has been shortlisted along with eight other groups, to the final stages of Cancer Research UK’s global Grand Challenge – an ambitious series of £20m cancer grants tackling some of the toughest questions in cancer research.

Led by the University of Oxford’s Professor Freddie Hamdy, and including researchers from three different countries, the team plans to distinguish between a lethal prostate cancer and one that doesn’t need treatment. They 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.

The team will now receive seed-funding to draft their full research proposal, and the winning proposal will be announced in autumn 2016.

The Grand Challenge award aims to revolutionise how we diagnose, prevent and treat cancer by uniting teams of the best scientists around the world to come up with answers to crucial questions about how to save more lives from cancer.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “The calibre of applications for our Grand Challenge is evidence of the remarkable global talent working in cancer research. It’s inspiring to see scientists of all disciplines and nations unite in the fight against the disease.”

Dr Rick Klausner, chair of the Grand Challenge advisory panel, said: “With so many exceptional teams proposing novel approaches, it was no easy task to pick our shortlist, but we’re delighted with the teams we’ve selected and look forward to hearing more about their plans to beat the toughest questions in cancer. At least one of these teams will be awarded the first ever Grand Challenge award later this year.

Oxford University’s Professor Freddie Hamdy said: “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 the exciting world-leading team we have put together, and unprecedented material from thousands of generous patients, we will rise to this challenge put to us by Cancer Research UK.”