Cancer Grand Challenges
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading funders of cancer research, partnered to launch the Cancer Grand Challenges program in 2020. Cancer Grand Challenges aims to provide multiple rounds of funding for interdisciplinary research teams from around whose novel ideas offer the greatest potential to advance bold cancer research and improve outcomes for people affected by cancer.
View the NCI Other Transaction Award Policy Guide on the Cancer Grand Challenges to learn about the NIH funding mechanism that is being used for this initiative.
Open Cancer Grand Challenges
In this round, nine challenges were developed through a series of international workshops and an open call online that collected ideas from the cancer research community and people affected by cancer. Of these, the most compelling were evaluated by experts in cancer research. The experts provided their recommendations to Cancer Research UK. As funding partners, NCI and Cancer Research UK made the final decision on the Cancer Grand Challenges.
The timeline for this round of Challenge questions is listed below and will be updated regularly:
|Launch of Cancer Grand Challenges questions
|Expressions of Interest due
|Announcement of those selected to submit a full application
|Full application deadline for shortlisted teams
|Interviews for shortlisted teams
|Final teams publicly announced
Learn more about this round of Cancer Grand Challenges, the challenge-setting process, and currently funded teams at the Cancer Grand Challenges program website.
- Decipher the T-cell receptor cancer-recognition code
- Determine the mechanisms through which obesity and physical activity influence cancer risk
- Determine why the incidence of early-onset cancers in adults is rising globally
- Understand cancer cell plasticity and its contribution to the development of pan-therapeutic resistance in cancer
- Understand the mechanisms through which genetics, biology, and social determinants affect cancer risk and outcomes in diverse populations, to motivate interventions to reduce cancer inequities
- Understand the roles of retrotransposable elements in cancer
- Develop therapeutics to target oncogenic drivers of solid tumors in children
- Decipher the functional basis underlying the association between aging somatic tissues and cancer
- Understand and prevent chemotherapy-induced neurotoxicity and neuropathy
For this round, NCI and Cancer Research UK received applications from 178 global teams who proposed ideas to take on one of the challenges above. In September 2023, it was announced that 12 teams were shortlisted to submit final applications. These teams span 18 countries and 84 research institutions, and unite more than 130 investigators and researchers.
Each shortlisted team will receive seed funding to develop its vision for tackling its chosen challenge into a full proposal. The teams with proposals that hold the greatest promise to make progress will each receive up to $25 million in funding. The winning teams will be announced in March 2024.
2021 Cancer Grand Challenges
NCI and Cancer Research UK received expressions of interest (EOI) submissions from 169 diverse teams, spanning more than 60 countries, applying for the nine open challenges. The scientific committee narrowed the innovative ideas to a shortlist of eleven teams, and these teams received seed funding to develop their ideas into full proposals.
From that shortlist of eleven teams, four funded teams were selected and will each receive approximately $25 million over five years, giving these interdisciplinary teams of scientists the flexibility and scale to innovate and carry out cutting-edge research on their Cancer Grand Challenge topic.
The winning teams and challenges include:
- The CANCAN team will explore cancer cachexia as a tumor-driven syndrome. Cachexia is a debilitating muscle wasting syndrome that dramatically affects quality of life and survival for many people with advanced cancer. The team is led by Eileen White, Ph.D., Rutgers Institute of New Jersey; Marcus DaSilva Goncalves, M.D., Ph.D., Weill Cornell Medicine, New York City; and Tobias Janowitz, M.D., Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York.
- The eDyNAmiC team seeks to understand the creation and action of extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA), which helps tumors evolve and evade treatment. They are also developing new ways to target these mechanisms in cancer. The team is led by Paul Mischel, M.D., Stanford University.
- The NexTGen team will work to develop engineered T-cell therapies for childhood cancer. They will also explore whether changing the tumor microenvironment can help make treatments more effective. The team is led by Catherine Bollard, M.D., Children's National Hospital, Washington, D.C.; and Martin Pule, University College London.
- The PROMINENT team aims to discover what triggers normal cells to become cancerous to inform prevention. They will explore how carcinogens and other mutation-forming factors help turn a normal cell into a tumor cell. The team is led by Allen Balmain, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco; Paul Brennan, Ph.D., International Agency for Research on Cancer; and Núria López Bigas, Ph.D., Institute for Research in Biomedicine Barcelona.
For more information about each of the funded teams, visit cancergrandchallenges.org.
This press release highlights the nine new challenge funding opportunities for Cancer Grand Challenges announced on March 8, 2023.
This is a recorded livestream of the announcement of nine new challenges on March 8, 2023, at the Annual Summit in London.
This press release announces the four teams funded through the Cancer Grand Challenges program in the 2021 round of challenges.
This Meet the Experts session was held on Tuesday, March 30. The session provided information about the unique program features and requirements, as well as the broader goals that NCI and CRUK aim to achieve under this new partnership. The webinar concluded with a final, open question and answer session, with program staff from both CRUK and NCI available to answer questions.
NCI, Cancer Research UK launch Cancer Grand Challenges partnership to support bold new ideas for cancer research
This press release announces the launch of the Cancer Grand Challenges program and provides a high level overview of the program and NCI’s financial commitment.
The Bottom Line blog post by Dinah S. Singer, PhD, highlights the launch event on August 27, 2020 and provides her perspective on the value and importance of this partnership to advancing cancer research.
In this Bottom Line blog post, Dr. Singer takes the opportunity to provide an update to the cancer research community on the Cancer Grand Challenges program and nine scientific challenges. Additionally, she expands on the joint January 12th preapplication webinar, which served to answer the research community’s questions about the program and application processes.
The Cancer Grand Challenges commemorative event, “The World’s largest funders of cancer research form transatlantic partnership to establish cancer grand challenges,” features leadership from both NCI and Cancer Research UK as they discuss the partnership in more detail.