The University of Leeds experts are among a team of scientists from the UK, US, Canada, Netherlands and Spain who have been handed a total of £20m through the Cancer Research UK charity’s Grand Challenge awards programme.
The slice of funding that has been earmarked for Leeds will be used to investigate how the human body’s microbiome – made up of billions of micro-organisms – could be manipulated to help treat bowel cancer.
Analysis of tissue samples from patients taking part in clinical trials at Leeds Cancer Centre will form a key element of the team’s five-year project.
The newly-announced funding will also allow the creation of six new research posts in the city.
Prof Philip Quirke, from the University of Leeds, said: “We are really excited to be part of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge.
“This award means that Leeds will be at the centre of some of the most exciting research into cancer going on in the world right now.
“Grand Challenge enables us to collaborate with international experts in other fields of research.
“Our aim is that this research project could help to revolutionise our understanding of the role the microbiome plays in cancer development.
“This could help find new ways to prevent the disease and also new treatments for patients in the future.”
Cancer Research UK set up its Grand Challenge programme with the aim of transforming the “prevention, diagnosis and treatment” of cancer.
The funding given to the Leeds researchers and their colleagues represents one of the largest grants ever made by the charity.
An international panel of experts approved the award after running the rule over a shortlist of applicants that included “multi-disciplinary” collaborations between universities, institutes and industries from across the globe.
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman for Yorkshire, said: “Grand Challenge gives us the perfect opportunity to address complex questions and cross new frontiers in our understanding of cancer, to transform the lives of patients.
“People in Yorkshire have every right to feel proud of the world-class research taking place on their doorstep and of their fundraising efforts, which are helping to beat cancer.”
Recent figures show bowel cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer in the UK, accounting for 12 per cent of all new cases of the disease.
The work being carried out by the researchers in Leeds will attempt to pinpoint the difference between a healthy microbiome and one that is associated with cancer.