Dr Fieke Froeling joins global Cancer Grand Challenges team taking on cancer inequities

A global, interdisciplinary team of researchers, including the University of Glasgow’s Dr Fieke Froeling, has been selected to receive a Cancer Grand Challenges award of up to $25m over five years to tackle the Cancer Inequities challenge.

Cancer Grand Challenges is a global funding initiative, co-founded by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute in the US, that supports a community of diverse, global teams to come together, think differently, and take on some of cancer’s toughest challenges.

Dr Froeling, from the University of Glasgow’s School of Cancer Sciences, will be joining the Cancer Grand Challenges team SAMBAI, which is led by Dr Melissa Davis from the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Inequities in cancer prevention, screening, and treatment lead to disparities in cancer incidence and mortality and are a major public health concern. Team SAMBAI aims to build an unprecedented resource, which will comprise a comprehensive measurement of social, environmental, genetic and biological factors that can be used to help define the causes of disparate outcomes in selected populations. The team will focus on prostate, breast and pancreatic cancers spanning diverse cohorts of African descent from regions of Africa, the UK and the US.

The SAMBAI team unites clinicians, patient advocates and scientists with expertise in computational biology, epidemiology, exposomics, genomics, immunology and more, across 15 institutions and 4 countries. This team is funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute through Cancer Grand Challenges. It is one of five new teams that was announced today, representing a total investment of $125m to tackle some of the toughest challenges in cancer research.

In Glasgow, Dr Fieke Froeling and the team will bring their expertise in pancreatic cancer research, coordinate pancreatic cancer patient recruitment within the UK and contribute to breast and prostate cancer patient recruitment. Using novel approaches, they will study how social, environmental and genetic factors determine the interactions between tumour and immune cells.

Dr Fieke Froeling, Clinical Senior Lecturer at University of Glasgow’s School of Cancer Sciences and CRUK Scotland Institute, said: "It is an incredible honour to join such a fantastic team of researchers to tackle cancer inequities. As an oncologist, I unfortunately see the population differences in cancer outcomes much too often, with many patients presenting late and too sick to receive any treatment. This needs to change.

"Social, environmental, genetic and biological factors all contribute to cancer inequities, but how they drive worse outcomes remains poorly understood. Improvements can only be made if we understand these dynamics. This is what we aim to achieve with SAMBAI, bringing all stake holders together and taking a multi-disciplinary approach with the ultimate goal to develop novel interventions so all patients can benefit from the advances made in cancer research."

Prof Iain McInnes, University of Glasgow Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences, said: "The University of Glasgow has an enduring commitment to understanding and beating cancer. We are also an institution with a strong civic conscience, with a strong history of addressing health inequalities. As such we are delighted that Dr Fieke Froeling and her colleagues have received this award, which we are confident will deliver meaningful change in the fight for equity in cancer treatment."

Prof Chris Halsey, University of Glasgow, Head of School of Cancer Sciences Universtiy, said: "School of Cancer Sciences at the University of Glasgow has a mission to perform patient centred science to transform cancer outcomes. We are passionate about ensuring that all cancer patients have the same chances of cure. This work by Dr Fieke Froeling will provide a vital piece of the jigsaw to help us address inequities in cancer incidence and outcome"

Ali Stunt, Pancreatic Cancer Survivor and Founder of Pancreatic Cancer Action, said: I am proud to be a patient advocate on the SAMBAI study, working with a group of inspiring patient advocates and scientists who are looking to investigate the causes of cancer inequalities. This is in the hope, for an already difficult disease, we can at least try to level the playing field."

Dr. David Scott, Director of Cancer Grand Challenges, said: "Together with our network of visionary partners and research leaders, Cancer Grand Challenges unites the world’s brightest minds across boundaries and disciplines and aims to overcome cancer’s toughest problems.

"With this investment, our largest to date, we continue to grow our global research community, and fund new teams that have the potential to surface discoveries that could positively impact cancer outcomes."