press release
Published: 08 February 2018

University of Surrey shortlisted for Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge Award

By Natasha Meredith

A multi-disciplinary team of scientists led by the University of Surrey and National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in London has been shortlisted to the final stages of Cancer Research UK's Grand Challenge* – and are in with a chance of securing £20m of global grants to help improve early diagnosis rates of cancer. 

A chemist doing experiments

The team, made up by researchers from University of Surrey, NPL, Maastricht University, University of Stirling, University of Cambridge and industry experts from Microsoft Research, and Maastro Clinic Center, have proposed a novel method to identify early signs cancers by analysing people’s consumer and behavioural habits. Early symptoms of cancer are often mistaken for other health ailments and patients often unwittingly self-manage symptoms before seeking medical advice.

Working with cancer patients and survivors, as well as experts from across a number of fields including cancer health, psychology, 5G and nutrition, researchers will examine early symptoms of cancer and how self-management of symptoms impacts upon patients behavioural and consumer routines. If successful, the team will develop software tools to encourage individuals to seek medical care if their behavioural habits (such as shopping) match the profile of someone with early signs of cancer.

The team will receive seed-funding of up to £30,000 to draft their full research proposal, and the winning proposal will be announced in autumn 2018.

The Grand Challenge award aims to revolutionise how we diagnose, prevent and treat cancer by providing international multi-disciplinary teams the freedom to try novel approaches, at scale, in the pursuit of life changing discoveries.

This is the second round of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge award and last year four teams were awarded up to £20 million each**.

Professor Sara Faithfull, Lead for Clinical Innovation at the University of Surrey, said: “I am delighted our project has been short listed in CRUK’s Grand Challenge.

“Early diagnosis of cancer save lives. However, what we are seeing is that people often dismiss signs of cancer and self-manage their symptoms, inadvertently delaying potentially lifesaving treatment. To overcome this and encourage people to get the help they need, we need to think innovatively to help people identify early signs themselves.”

Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said: “Round two of Grand Challenge is proving to be incredibly inspiring and the ambitious applications reflect the quality of global researchers this initiative has attracted to beat cancer sooner. We’re delighted with the teams we’ve shortlisted and look forward to hearing more about how they plan to tackle the toughest challenges in cancer research.”

Dr Rick Klausner, chair of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge advisory panel, said: “The challenges set for Grand Challenge have once again attracted some of the best researchers in the world. I’m looking forward to see how global collaboration could bring together diverse expertise, invigorate areas of research, and overcome barriers in ways that aren’t happening at this point in time.”

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