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New research to fill vital knowledge gaps in what causes cancer

Posted on 17/02/2017

Professor David Phillips, Division of Analytical & Environmental Sciences along with a team of researchers have received £20 million from Cancer Research UK to fill vital knowledge gaps in the environmental and behavioural causes of cancer.

Last year, Cancer Research UK invited multidisciplinary teams from around the world to submit proposals as part of the Grand Challenge competition. The competition offered a total of £100 million of funding towards addressing seven unresolved challenges in cancer research.

Securing one of four £20 million grants, the team led by Professor Mike Stratton from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute includes Professor Phillips, scientists from the UK, France and the US and collaborators from the International Agency for Research on Cancer. They aim to build a deeper understanding of what causes cancer. It is already known that our environment and behaviours such as smoking and drinking alcohol can cause cancer by damaging our cells’ DNA. This damage occurs in distinctive patterns known as mutational fingerprint; however little is known about this process. The team will study cancer samples from five continents to understand the DNA damage associated with different cancers what causes them and if they can be prevented.

There are at least 50 cancer-associated mutational fingerprints but researchers only know what causes around half of them. The research will fill vital knowledge gaps in the environmental and behavioural causes of cancer.

Professor Phillips says, “I am excited to be involved in this ambitious project and to be part of the high-powered consortium that has been assembled to find new insights into the causes of cancer. It is also a great opportunity to develop new methods and systems for studying the fundamental mechanisms of carcinogenesis.”

If you would like to know more about their research visit the Cancer Research UK’s website

Infographic of international search to identify causes of cancer by their fingerprints
Credit: Cancer Research UK

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