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An international team of scientists has been shortlisted out of 134 applications spanning 41 countries.

cruk-awardProf Vincenzo Cerundolo, Director of the MRC Human Immunology Unit (Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford), is one of 16 investigators in the shortlisted team, led by Prof Lindy Durrant from The University of Nottingham/Scancell Ltd. Their proposed project aims to investigate how personalised cancer vaccines might be used to eradicate tumours in the future.

Therapies designed to boost our body’s immune system have revolutionised the treatment of cancer. However, these treatments don’t work in all patients, or against all cancers. This is partially due to our limited understanding of how the immune system interacts with tumour cells, but also because currently available immune-boosting therapies – known as ‘cancer vaccines’ – only target a small number of antigenic peptides, often only triggering a weak response by our immune system.

Prof Vincenzo CerundoloProf Vincenzo CerundoloIn order to create better cancer vaccines, the team wants to screen a large number of tumour antigens and use machine learning tools to predict which of these would trigger a good immune response in individual patients with cancer. Meanwhile they will test and develop new and more efficient ways of delivering the treatment. Armed with this knowledge, the team will then test their ideas in investigator-initiated clinical studies – with a special focus on patients with head and neck cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and one type of brain tumour. This will allow the team to build templates for how to treat different cancers. If successful, these templates will allow doctors to easily identify which antigens to target, and then which type of vaccine to use, to create truly bespoke vaccines for each patient and radically improving survival on a global scale.

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. Prof Cerundolo’s 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.