Owen Sansom, Director of the Cancer Reserach UK Beatson Institute, has been selected for the final stages of Cancer Grand Challenges as part of team PLASTICITY-Tx. The team will now compete to win up to $25m funding to take on one of cancer's toughest challenges.

Cancer Grand Challenges was founded by the two largest funders of cancer research in the world – Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute in the US – and aims to make the progress against cancer we urgently need. Through a series of funding awards (up to £20m c. $25m), Cancer Grand Challenges gives global teams of researchers the freedom to think differently, act creatively and take on some of the toughest challenges in cancer.

In March 2023, Cancer Grand Challenges announced nine of cancer’s toughest challenges for the global research community to take on. One of these was the cancer cell plasticity challenge which aims to understand cancer cell plasticity and its contribution to the development of pan-therapeutic resistance cancer.

Today (05/09/2023), Cancer Grand Challenges have announced a shortlist of 12 teams chosen from the 178 interdisciplinary, world-class global teams who submitted ideas for these challenges. The shortlisted teams which span 18 countries, 84 research institutions and unite more than 130 investigators and researchers will now compete to win up to $25m.


Owen Sansom and the PLASTICITY-Tx team are one of those which have been shortlisted. The team – led by Cédric Blanpain of Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium – aims to construct a catalogue of cell states to uncover the mechanisms that drive cancer cell plasticity and reveal new therapeutic approaches against cancer. The project includes researchers from Belgium, Austria, France, Israel, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The team hopes to integrate transcriptional, epigenetic and spatial single-cell analysis techniques to construct comprehensive catalogues encompassing the various cancer cell states and those in associated stromal cells. The team would utilise a variety of models to track cell state transitions and uncover the cell-intrinsic genetic determinants and microenvironmental regulators that influence cancer cell plasticity.

The team will bring together researchers with specialised knowledge in stem cells and cancer, as well as renowned experts from diverse fields including chemical biology, functional genomics, biophysics and medical oncology. Through the synergistic integration of these distinct areas of expertise, the team hopes to foster the creation of cutting-edge solutions and pioneer novel therapeutic approaches centred around targeting plasticity.

Along with the 12 other shortlisted teams, PLASTICITY-Tx will now receive seed funding to draft their full research proposal and compete for up to $25m in funding, empowering them to rise above the traditional boundaries of geography and discipline to ultimately change outcomes for people with cancer. The winning teams will be announced in March 2024