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Cancer​ ​Research​ ​UK​ ​Unveils​ ​First​ ​Winners​ ​of​ ​Grand​ ​Challenge​ ​Competition

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Cancer Research UK announced today the first four winners of its £100 million ($125 million) Grand Challenge competition, which aims to fund studies addressing the biggest challenges in cancer research.

The competition, which was unveiled in 2015, focuses on seven areas: vaccines for non-viral cancers; the eradication of Epstein-Barr virus-induced cancers; understanding how unusual patterns of mutation are induced by cancer-causing events; differentiating benign and malignant tumors; mapping of tumors at the molecular and cellular levels; new ways to target the regulator gene Myc; and the delivery of biologically active macromolecules.

Cancer Research UK said that it initially intended to fund one new research project a year for five years, with each receiving £20 million in funding. However, the organization has partnered with the Dutch Cancer Society and an anonymous donor to raise enough money to fund four projects in the competition's first year.

The four winners include a team led by scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which will receive up to £20 million to analyze 5,000 cancer samples from patients throughout the world to study cancer-associated DNA damage and identify its causes; and a group led by Netherlands Cancer Institute scientists, which will receive up to £15 million to identify DNA biomarkers in women with ductal carcinoma in situ that can help predict who will go on to develop breast cancer.

Also awarded funding under the Grand Challenge competition is a team led by researchers from the National Physical Laboratory in the UK, which will receive up to £16 million to use newly developed mass spectrometry imaging technology to create 3D representations of tumors and to build a database cataloging tumors' genetics and metabolism; and a team led by Cancer Research UK investigators, which will receive up to £20 million to develop an interactive 3D map of breast cancer.

"Cancer Research UK set up the Grand Challenge awards to bring a renewed focus and energy to the fight against cancer," Cancer Research UK CEO Harpal Kumar said in a statement. "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."