We are looking to fund research that allows us to understand cancer better and to treat cancer effectively.
This initiative aims to bring together researchers from diverse disciplines to drive co-development of innovative and high-risk high-reward technologies to understand hard-to-treat cancers. MRC acknowledges the support of Cancer Research UK in developing this initiative.
Cancer is highly heterogeneous (inter and intra patient) and hard-to-treat tumour types show high levels of resistance to therapies.
Reasons for resistance are poorly understood, particularly in cancers with no clear underlying genetic driver, meaning patients with these cancers have fewer effective treatment options, leading to worse outcomes.
This is largely due to poor understanding of the tissue state at point of diagnosis and how the molecular landscape of the tumour and its microenvironment could inform on personalised or combination treatment approaches and new therapeutic targets.
Existing approaches to studying tumour biology can be slow, expensive, and rarely recapitulate this heterogeneity seen in hard-to-treat cancers.
Precision medicine approaches can only be fully realised through a deeper understanding of complex tissue states, dynamic and evolving cellular relationships and disease progression.
Our goal is to support the application of innovative, new technologies or approaches to provide a further holistic understanding of the dynamic biology of treatment-resistant cancers. This includes (but is not limited to):
- understanding the genome, epigenome, transcriptome, and proteome of single cells in context
- cell relationships and neighbourhoods within the tumour environment
- tumour stroma and roles played by surrounding tissues
This sandpit workshop is aimed at researchers from diverse disciplines (both academic and industry) spanning:
- cell and developmental biologists
- molecular and genetic cancer researchers
- computational and data scientists
These researchers should be interested in working together to apply their skills to define challenges in this space and co-develop technological innovations to understand cancer better.
We invite eligible researchers at all career stages to apply.
Cancer challenge themes we aim to consider include:
- hard to access cancers
- tumour heterogeneity and molecular complexity
- effective treatment delivery
- disease modelling
- high stromal content
- treatment resistance
The focus will be on hard-to-treat cancers, including brain, lung, oesophageal, pancreatic, stomach and liver cancers, which have some of the poorest 5-year survival figures.
These cancers by their very nature exhibit high levels of heterogeneity and may have undruggable or unknown genetic drivers, making them refractory to existing treatments. However, we expect that the technological innovations arising from this sandpit will be more broadly applicable to other cancer types once developed.
The objectives of the sandpit workshop are to:
- bring together experts from a wide range of disciplines to brainstorm and co-develop innovative technological approaches to cancer biology
- build interdisciplinary teams during the sandpit to develop novel research proposals to address technical challenges in hard-to-treat cancers
- fund high-risk high-reward research to develop these technological innovations to better understand hard-to-treat cancers
Sandpit event overview
The event will consist of:
- video conference introductory meeting
- 2 day in person event in Manchester
- 35 to 45 participants, 4 to 5 people per group
- participants develop and present novel collaborative project proposals at the sandpit, followed by submission of short written proposals post event
Prior to the 2 day event, we will run a short video conference to introduce participants and their areas of expertise in advance of meeting in person.
At the 2 day sandpit event, participants from diverse scientific backgrounds will come together to define challenges and generate ideas for research proposals. A facilitator will lead the proceedings, explain the objectives of each session, and help organise discussion groups of 4 to 5 people.
Advisory Group members and ‘mentors’ will observe teams developing their ideas and approaches and may provide prompts to encourage bolder thinking or expansion of concepts.
At the end of the 2 days, participants will present research proposals in person to the Advisory Group. The Advisory Group will discuss the proposals and invite groups with the most promising ideas to submit written proposals for final assessment.