National Physical Laboratory

NPL shortlisted for Cancer Research UK's Grand Challenge award

A multi-disciplinary team of scientists, led by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), has been shortlisted along with eight other groups, to the final stages of Cancer Research UK's global Grand Challenge – an ambitious series of £20M cancer grants tackling some of the toughest questions in cancer research.

Dr Josephine Bunch using a secondary ion mass spectrometer at NPL
Dr Josephine Bunch using a secondary ion mass
spectrometer at NPL

The team, involving researchers from NPL, Imperial College London, the Institute of Cancer Research, the Francis Crick Institute, the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, LGC and AstraZeneca, will focus on the challenge of 3D tumour mapping.

Analytical chemist Dr Josephine Bunch and her team would argue that if you want to map the true picture of a tumour, you need to start with the parts you don't know – rather than looking for what you do.

Bunch and colleagues at the National Physical Laboratory have pioneered techniques that can image thousands of molecules in cells and tissues simultaneously. The technology is so powerful that it can zoom in to show the location of single molecules within individual cells.

Their Grand Challenge proposal sees them teaming up with world leaders in tumour metabolism, imaging and modelling to apply this technology to the cancer field.

They hope to develop the technology to a stage where it can visualise the rewiring of cellular and metabolic networks that occurs at different stages of tumour progression: an invaluable tool that could identify new treatment targets and more accurately characterise and monitor patients' disease.

Dr Bunch said: "We are absolutely delighted and thrilled to be shortlisted for the Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge awards. This opportunity would enable us to bring together developers of innovative imaging techniques with international experts in cancer metabolism for the first time. Together, we can start to unravel the mysteries behind the complex community of cancer cells living within a tumour and understand the chemistry of the infrastructure they rely on. We are really excited at the prospect of working with Cancer Research UK to realise their ambitious goals, as part of the effort to tackle cancer."

The team will now receive seed-funding to draft their full research proposal, and the winning proposal will be announced in autumn 2016.

The Grand Challenge award aims to revolutionise how we diagnose, prevent and treat cancer by uniting teams of the best scientists around the world to come up with answers to crucial questions about how to save more lives from cancer.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: "The calibre of applications for our Grand Challenge is evidence of the remarkable global talent working in cancer research. It's inspiring to see scientists of all disciplines and nations unite in the fight against the disease."

Dr Rick Klausner, chair of the Grand Challenge advisory panel, said: "With so many exceptional teams proposing novel approaches, it was no easy task to pick our shortlist, but we're delighted with the teams we've selected and look forward to hearing more about their plans to beat the toughest questions in cancer. At least one of these teams will be awarded the first ever Grand Challenge award later this year."

Find out more about the National Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry Imaging at NPL

Find out more about NPL's Surface & Nanoanalysis research

For more information about the project, contact Josephine Bunch

For media enquiries about Cancer Research UK's Grand Challenge, contact Emily Head on 020 3469 6189.

Keep in touch with the latest news and events at NPL
by signing up for an email newsletter

Last Updated: 18 Jan 2017
Created: 14 Apr 2016


Please note that the information will not be divulged to third parties, or used without your permission