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05 September 2023

Three researchers shortlisted for Cancer Grand Challenges funding

Professor Tim Spector, Dr Sarah Berry and Dr Sheeba Irshad of King’s have been selected for the final stages of Cancer Grand Challenges as part of teams PROSPECT (Spector and Berry) and SAMBAI (Irshad).

Cancer globally

These interdisciplinary, global teams are now in with a chance of receiving up to $25m to make radical progress against some of cancer’s toughest challenges.

In March, Cancer Grand Challenges announced nine new challenges, with 178 interdisciplinary, world-class global teams submitting bold ideas to take them on. Teams PROSPECT and SAMBAI are amongst the 12 that have been shortlisted. They draw together a unique set of expertise and unite researchers from multiple countries.

Each team will now receive seed funding to draft their full research proposal and compete for up to $25m in funding, empowering them to rise above the traditional boundaries of geography and discipline to ultimately change outcomes for people with cancer.

Professor Spector and Dr Berry are part of team PROSPECT. The team is led by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Washington University in St Louis, US, and aims to tackle the rise in the incidence of early-onset colorectal cancer by employing a disruptive, trans-disciplinary approach spanning cells, individuals and populations.

I am very excited for our team to be shortlisted. We bring a unique combination of 30 years of twin data and samples, with experience of multiple omics using big data, citizen science and personalised nutrition via collaboration with ZOE Ltd.

Professor Tim Spector, Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology

Meanwhile Team SAMBAI, led by Melissa Davis from the Morehouse School of Medicine, US, aims to build an unprecedented resource focused on breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer in people of African descent.

I really believe that the SAMBAI initiative, a global multidisciplinary collaborative team brought together through the CRUK's Grand Challenge, could drive a tangible transformation in tackling ethnic disparities related to cancer.

Dr Sheeba Irshad, Cancer Research UK Clinician Scientist from The School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences

"We had a fantastic response from the global research community who rose to the task and submitted bold and innovative ideas to take on our new challenges. We are pleased to have a shortlist of 12 teams whose proposed research approaches we believe hold the greatest potential to make the progress against these cancer challenges that we urgently need. I'm looking forward to seeing how the teams develop their approaches further in their full applications," says Dr David Scott, Director, Cancer Grand Challenges.

Funded teams will be announced in March 2024.

In this story

Tim Spector

Professor of Genetic Epidemiology