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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 multidisciplinary research teams from around whose novel ideas offer the greatest potential to advance bold cancer research and improve outcomes for people affected by cancer.

Review the NCI Other Transaction Award Policy Guide for Cancer Grand Challenges to learn about the NIH funding mechanism that is being used for this initiative.

2023 Cancer Grand Challenges

NCI and Cancer Research UK are now preparing for the next round of challenge opportunities. Ideas can be submitted through an online form between October 24, 2022 and November 28, 2022. For those looking for input on what to submit, the web portal provides additional guidance for developing suitable ideas for consideration. 

Of the ideas submitted, the most compelling will be evaluated by a Scientific Committee. The experts will provide their recommendations to Cancer Research UK. As funding partners, NCI and Cancer Research UK will make the final decisions on the Cancer Grand Challenges funding opportunities that will be announced in Spring of 2023.

A challenge can be related to any problem relevant to understanding, prevention, detecting, or treating cancer. It must be of such scale that it can't be addressed through standard funding mechanisms and calls for a multidisciplinary, global team science approach.

Learn more about the Cancer Grand Challenges program, the challenge-setting process, and the currently funded teams at the cancer grand challenges program website

2021 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 reviewed and selected by an expert panel with input from a patient committee. 

NCI and Cancer Research UK received expressions of interest (EOI) submissions from 169 diverse teams, spanning more than 60 countries. 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 have been selected and will each receive approximately $25 million over five years, giving these multidisciplinary 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

Related Resources

  • Meet the Experts Session

    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.

  • Global Leaders in Cancer Research Partner on Cancer Grand Challenges

    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.

  • Cancer Grand Challenges Attracts Global Attention

    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.

  • NCI and Cancer Research UK Cancer Grand Challenges Partnership (Video)

    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.

NCI and Cancer Research UK Cancer Grand Challenges Partnership