Cancer research team led by Johns Hopkins scientist shortlisted for £20M award

Rong Li's team among 10 finalists in Cancer Research UK's Grand Challenge

An international team led by Johns Hopkins University researcher Rong Li, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of cell biology and chemical and biomolecular engineering, has been selected as one of 10 finalists in the second round of Cancer Research UK's Grand Challenge, a series of £20 million awards seeking international, multidisciplinary teams willing to take on the toughest challenges in cancer.

Rong Li

Image caption: Rong Li

More than 130 multidisciplinary teams submitted ideas, each addressing one of eight global challenges in cancer research. Li and the other finalists will receive £30,000 in seed money to start working on their innovative solutions to these Grand Challenges.

"This award is intended to transform the cancer research field," says Rick Klausner, chair of the Grand Challenge Scientific Advisory Panel. "These proposals will drive global collaboration and the bringing together of diverse expertise in a way that is not already happening."

Li, who also has an appointment in JHU's Department of Biomedical Engineering and directs the Center for Cell Dynamics, studies large-scale genomic defects, such as the gain or loss of chromosomes, associated with many cancers.

As part of the Cancer Causes Grand Challenge, Li will lead a team of biomedical engineers, geneticists, and cancer biologists from across the U.S. and the U.K. to explore the link between inflammation and these genomic abnormalities in cancer. Although patients with chronic inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, have a higher lifetime risk of developing cancer, it is still unclear how one disease leads to the other. By uncovering these mechanisms, Li and her team hope to identify new treatments for patients with inflammatory disease that can reduce their cancer risk.

"Our ultimate goal is to delay, or even prevent, certain cancers altogether, by protecting the genome against risk factors such as chronic inflammation," Li says.

The team will compete for the £20 million grand prize this November. More information on Li's team and its work can be found on the Cancer Research UK website.