“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 the 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 United States and the United Kingdom 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,” says Li.
The team will compete for the £20 million grand prize this November. More information on Li’s team and its work can be found here.