Australian team shortlisted for big cancer prize

An Australian-led multidisciplinary team has been chosen as one of 10 shortlisted for the final round of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge Award.

At stake is a grant of $31 million. The challenge is open to any research institute, university or private enterprise anywhere in the world that is tackling pressing questions about cancer. 

The Australian team is led by Peter Croucher from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research based in Sydney, and includes scientists from the USA, UK and Israel, specialising in the fields of cancer genetics, biology, and immunology. 

The researchers have already received $47,000 towards their full research proposal, which will be used to convince the advisory panel to award them the big prize.

The team is hoping to uncover what underlies the mechanisms behind one of the biggest but most poorly understood problems — cell dormancy in cancer. This is when cancer cells, following apparently successful treatment, go into hibernation for months or years. They then reawaken, seemingly randomly, to form new tumours, often with catastrophic consequences. 

If awarded the grant, Croucher and co-workers will use state-of-the-art 4D techniques to map the environment around and divulge the inner workings of these sleeping cells. This could inform targeted drug treatments, provide computer models to predict their resurgence and eventually change the way cancer relapses are managed. 

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