UP researcher shortlisted for Cancer Grand Challenges funding

Posted on September 12, 2023

Professor Zodwa Dlamini, a distinguished researcher at the University of Pretoria's (UP) Faculty of Health Sciences, has reached the final stages of the prestigious Cancer Grand Challenges, representing Team SAMBAI. This global, interdisciplinary team is now in contention for a groundbreaking $25 million in funding to address one of cancer's most formidable challenges.

Earlier this year, Cancer Grand Challenges unveiled nine new challenges, attracting 178 interdisciplinary teams from around the world with audacious proposals to confront them. Team SAMBAI, comprised of researchers from five countries, has emerged as one of the 12 shortlisted teams. They will receive seed funding to develop their full research proposal and compete for the substantial funding, transcending geographical and disciplinary boundaries to reshape cancer outcomes.

As part of Team SAMBAI, Prof Dlamini aims to tackle the pressing issue of cancer inequities. The team’s goal is to create an unprecedented resource that elucidates the factors influencing disparate cancer outcomes among underserved populations.

"This is scientific creativity on a global scale," Prof Dlamini commented. "We have the chance to receive up to $25 million, with the winners set to be announced in March 2024. Team SAMBAI seeks to define the causes of cancer disparities in diverse underserved populations. This remarkable opportunity brings together major academic institutions and historically underserved organisations, fostering synergy in cancer disparities and equity research."

Prof Dlamini, the founding director of the Pan African Cancer Research Institute (PACRI) at UP, aligns her work with PACRI's vision to push the boundaries of precision oncology, cancer prevention, and novel therapeutic approaches. Both the PACRI's vision and Team SAMBAI share a commitment to advancing cancer research, data collection, collaboration and addressing health inequalities, particularly among underserved populations of African descent.

Dr David Scott, Director of Cancer Grand Challenges, expressed excitement about the global research community's response to the challenges. "We have a shortlist of 12 teams whose proposed research approaches hold the greatest potential to make the progress against these cancer challenges that we urgently need," he noted. "I'm looking forward to seeing how the teams develop their approaches further in their full applications."

This achievement places Prof Dlamini and Team SAMBAI at the forefront of global cancer research, offering hope for groundbreaking discoveries that could reshape cancer outcomes for underserved populations worldwide. Their journey continues as they work towards the March 2024 announcement of funded teams, with the potential to revolutionise the fight against cancer inequities.

- Author Sindisiwe Kubeka

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