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Multi-million funding opportunity launches to tackle cancer research challenges

Melanie May | 8 March 2023 | News

two researchers in a lab. A man and a woman in white coats. By Edward Jenner on Pexels

Funding awards of up to £20 million are available for researchers tackling some of the biggest cancer research challenges.

Cancer Grand Challenges is a £400m+ global funding initiative founded in 2020 by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health in the US.

Every two years, Cancer Grand Challenges invites the global research community, patient advocates and people affected by cancer to submit ideas for the greatest obstacles standing in the way of making progress against cancer. The Cancer Grand Challenges Scientific Committee then meet to decide which ones to focus on before challenging researchers from across the globe to form teams and tackle them.


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The new challenges for this year, announced today (8 March) at the Cancer Grand Challenges annual summit in London, were chosen by cancer researchers from over 300 submissions across 35 countries, and include tackling cancer inequalities and understanding why there is a rise in early-onset cancers in adults globally.

Director of Cancer Grand Challenges, Dr David Scott said:

“Cancer is a major global problem that has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cancer Grand Challenges are setting the agenda for researchers across the world to come together and make change.


“Our initiative inspires new thinking – bringing together world-class, multidisciplinary teams to find bold, new solutions to cancer’s most complex problems.”

Expressions of interest are now open with international research teams invited to apply with a deadline of 22 June. Shortlisted teams will be announced in August 2023. 

International teams are invited to apply for research funding to find new ways to solve them. The awarded teams will be announced in March 2024.

NCI Deputy Director for Scientific Strategy and Development, Dr Dinah S. Singer, Ph.D. said:

“Advances in cancer research are driven by scientific creativity and collaboration, two core tenets of Cancer Grand Challenges.


“Our investment and support of these new challenges is built on the principle that by uniting a global research community, we will make progress against cancer that the world urgently needs.”

In 2022, the Cancer Grand Challenges initiative awarded £80 million to four interdisciplinary teams to study a muscle-wasting condition in cancer patients known as cachexia, the biology of extrachromosomal DNA in cancer, new therapies for solid tumours in children, and the triggers that cause normal cells harbouring cancer-causing mutations to become tumour cells. In earlier years, seven other multidisciplinary projects were also funded through earlier rounds of the Cancer Grand Challenges.

Previously funded teams include the Mutograph team, who found that quitting smoking could allow new, healthy cells to actively replenish the lining of our airways; and the IMAXT team, who have created technology which can allow viewers to interact with detailed cell maps of tumours in virtual reality – an entirely new way to study cancer.

In support of Cancer Grand Challenges, Cancer Research UK is building a global network of partners, including Scientific Foundation of the Spanish Association Against Cancer, the Dutch Cancer Society, and The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. To date, £210mn has been invested.