Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) researchers Drs. Lincoln Stein and Steven Gallinger have been announced as members 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.

Stein and Gallinger’s pioneering team 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 U.S. and U.K.

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.

“One of the most intriguing aspects of cancer is how much the rate and types of cancer differ from one part of the world to another,” said Stein, who is Interim Scientific Director of OICR and Director of OICR’s Informatics and Bio-computing Program. “This project is the first large-scale attempt to systematically study how geography influences cancer at the genomic level, and will lead to new understandings of how diet, lifestyle, the environment and genetics interact to cause these regional differences. Dr. Gallinger and I are proud to participate in this groundbreaking project by contributing scientific expertise and samples collected from Canadians across several cancer types.”

Gallinger is Head of Hepatobiliary/Pancreatic Surgical Oncology Program at University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital and leader of OICR’s PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative.

“Our province’s researchers are among the best in the world, and I am thrilled to congratulate Dr. Stein and Dr. Gallinger on this very well-deserved honour,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. “Their insight and expertise will be a great benefit to this project, which will help global researchers better understand this disease as we work towards a cancer-free future.”

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.”

Cancer Research UK set up Grand Challenge in 2015 and committed up to £100 million (CDN$164 million) to this new approach to help increase the pace of research. Phase two of the Grand Challenge, when Cancer Research UK plans to issue a set of second challenges, will launch this summer.

For full details of the Grand Challenge go to www.cruk.org/grandchallenge

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