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Boosting progress in population research

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by Cancer Research UK | Research Feature

20 April 2016

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Catalyst Award

We’re giving researchers around the world the chance to build novel collaborations that will develop innovative ideas and drive population research forward.

Thinking outside the box.

We’ve launched our new Catalyst Award to encourage collaborative, multidisciplinary and innovative working in population research, so that together, research groups can deliver progress over and above what they could do alone.

Cancer is an international problem and research is an international endeavour. One thing we often hear from researchers both here and abroad is that they need more opportunities to work together. The Catalyst Award enables applicants to work with teams that they have never worked with before and to develop ideas that are not possible through other forms of funding at CRUK — so that we can boost the progress we’re making in population research.

What are we already doing and what can the UK offer?

We’ve made great progress in population research over the past 40 years through the investigator-led programmes and projects that we fund and through the specialist partnerships that we’ve developed across the UK. We’ve invested in a number of research groups, networks and cohorts across a wide-range of disciplines to support population research including the UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre (HBRC) and the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford. We’re also part of the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research and UKCRC Public Health Centres of Excellencenetworks amongst others.

The UK has an unparalleled collection of large population cohort studies that include a rich collection of datasets differing in size, age, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, socio-economic position and length of follow-up. Much of the work at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, which is jointly funded by us and the Medical Research Council, is centred around two large-scale cohort studies; the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC)and the Million Women Study. Our investment in population health research in cancer has enabled the development of valuable resources which are a vital component of population research in the UK today and we are committed to data sharing so that the resources and datasets from our cohorts are accessible for other researchers and the wider research community.

Looking to the future — why do we need a new funding scheme?

In our strategy we set ourselves an ambitious target, to accelerate progress so that cancer survival increases from 1 in 2, to 3 in 4 people by 2034. But we know that to achieve this we need to do more in population research. We need to develop our capabilities and scope further by encouraging collaboration, innovation and by opening up funding to international institutions. By doing this we are able to maximise the impact of population researchers and our potential in the field.

There is a clear need to make better links between behavioural and cancer research. The Catalyst award provides an important opportunity to bring together behavioural scientists and cancer researchers to form new collaborations. This can involve international partnerships, which could be valuable to ensure that we bring together the best minds to develop new ways to prevent cancer before it starts, or explore new behavioural interventions to improve outcomes of people with a cancer diagnosis. It’s often said that prevention is better than cure — but the Catalyst award could improve our capacity to do both.

— Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling and CRUK/BUPA Professor of Behavioural Research for Cancer Prevention.

The Catalyst Award will help accelerate population research in cancer. Research hubs will be developed whose focus will span the breadth of population research. These hubs will bring together teams with a diverse range of skills, resources and expertise, providing the opportunity to build capacity in key areas.

The Catalyst Award, and ultimately the collaborative working, will allow for greater data sharing, increased power and access to replication cohorts, interdisciplinary advantages that will lead to novel approaches and hypotheses, enhanced clinical and population relevance, and international exposure.

— Richard Martin , Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol.

I’m in, what’s next?

Check out the webpage and get in contact with the Catalyst Award team to find out more. The Award is run annually and the team will be able to advise you on the appropriate next steps.

We hope for highly innovative, high-risk and potentially high-yield projects. We envisage that applications will identify gaps of knowledge where new approaches will benefit the population at large and indeed cancer patients.

— Professor Per Hall , chair of the Population Research Committee

The team look forward to hearing from you.