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BC Cancer Agency researchers to be part of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge helping to answer cancer’s biggest questions

February 10, 2017

Found in News

VANCOUVER, B.C. – BC Cancer Agency researcher – Dr. Sam Aparicio – has been announced as a member of one of the first global research teams to be recipients of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge.

The Grand Challenge aims to help overcome the biggest challenges facing cancer research in a global effort to beat cancer sooner.

The winning projects are set to revolutionize our understanding of cancer, and how to better prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. The international, multidisciplinary teams’ will bring together people, technology and knowledge on a scale that has not previously been undertaken in cancer.

Dr. Aparicio’s pioneering team will create a virtual reality 3D tumour map which will allow scientists and doctors to examine – for the first time and in unprecedented detail – the cellular and molecular make-up of a patient’s entire tumour to improve diagnosis and treatment for the disease. This project will be led by Professor Greg Hannon at the University of Cambridge, with collaborators from Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, the USA and UK.

This new Cancer Research UK initiative has been overseen by a panel* of world-leading researchers and chaired by Dr Rick Klausner, former director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Cancer Research UK set up the Grand Challenge awards to bring a renewed focus and energy to the fight against cancer. We want to shine a light on the toughest questions that stand in the way of progress. We’re incredibly excited to be able to support these exceptional teams as they help us achieve our ambition.

“Cancer is a global problem, and these projects are part of the global solution. Together, we will redefine cancer – turning it from a disease that so many people die from, to one that many people can live with. We will reduce the number of people worldwide affected by cancer and achieve our goal of beating cancer sooner.”

Additional information:

Other teams beginning new landmark research will:

  • Study samples from five continents to understand the DNA damage associated with different cancers, to understand what causes them and if they can be prevented. The project will be led by Professor Mike Stratton at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, with collaborators from France, the USA and UK.
  • Distinguish between those women with DCIS (a condition that can develop into cancer) who need treatment and those that don’t, to reduce overtreatment of the condition. This project will be led by Dr Jelle Wesseling at the Netherlands Cancer Institute with collaborators from the USA, UK and Netherlands.
  • Develop a way to combine new and existing technologies to create virtual representations of tumours, and a global database that catalogues their genetic make-up and metabolism, which could lead to new ways to diagnose and treat the disease.  This project will be led by Dr Josephine Bunch at the National Physical Laboratory, London, with collaborators from multiple UK research centres.

Cancer Research UK set up Grand Challenge in 2015 and committed up to £100m to this new approach to help increase the pace of research.

Phase two of Grand Challenge, when Cancer Research UK plans to issue a set of second challenges, will launch this summer.

Dr Rick Klausner, chair of the Grand Challenge advisory panel and former director of the National Cancer Institute, said: “When we began the Grand Challenge we sought scientific adventurers – people willing to come together in new ways, to think differently, and bring novel approaches to answer the big questions in cancer. These unique teams have done just that.

“Cancer is a complex, and often brutal disease. Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge is helping us change the way we to tackle it – bringing together different disciplines, ideas, and people on a global scale. We've got our sights set on the horizon of discovery, and I’m confident these Grand Challenge teams will lead to life-changing results.”

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Media contact:

Jenn Currie
Communications Officer
BC Cancer Agency


Notes to editor:

* The panel includes Professor Sir Adrian Bird, Professor Suzanne Cory, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Professor Ed Harlow, Professor Tyler Jacks, Dr Rick Klausner, Professor Sir David Lane, Dr Christopher Wild and Dr Brian Druker.

For more information about the panel and full details of Grand Challenge go to www.cruk.org/grandchallenge

** The seven challenges were to:

  1. Develop vaccines to prevent non-viral cancers
  2. Eradicate EBV-induced cancers from the world
  3. Discover how unusual patterns of mutation are induced by different cancer-causing events
  4. Distinguish between lethal cancers that need treating, and non-lethal cancers that don’t
  5. Find a way of mapping tumours at the molecular and cellular level
  6. Develop innovative approaches to target the cancer super-controller MYC
  7. Deliver biologically active macromolecules to any and all cells in the body