Earlier detection of cancer through interrogation of medical and non-medical data sets using machine and deep-learning is one of eight new key quests set by Cancer Research UK in the second phase of its Grand Challenge Fund.

The Grand Challenge scheme is a series of £20 million awards handed out over five years to fund research into new approaches that tackle what the charity identifies as the key barriers to making progress against the disease.

In this round, Cancer Research UK is also asking teams to devise approaches to prevent or treat cancer based on mechanisms that determine tissue specificity of some cancer genes, create novel tumour vaccinology approaches that establish or enhance successful immune responses and define mechanistic rules for combination treatments to overcome resistance and avoid toxicity.

Other targets are to distinguish between cancer that are lethal and need treating and non-lethal forms that don’t, to identify and target tumour cells that remain dormant for many years after seemingly effective treatment, and finally to determine the mechanisms that cause cancer without known mutagenesis, such as obesity, in order to develop novel interventions.

Researchers from different countries, backgrounds and disciplines are being challenged by the charity to use their combined knowledge to solve these “monumental problems”. Teams will have six months to submit outline proposals before those shortlisted are announced in the autumn.

“Grand Challenge is breaking down barriers and accelerating progress. By bringing together some of the world’s leaders in cancer research we’ve come up with eight key challenges that, if answered, could see research leap ahead at new speeds,” said Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Sir Harpal Kumar.

In the first phase of the initiative last year, nine pioneering teams were shortlisted from 56 bids, against seven Grand Challenges.

“Now, with a renewed set of questions, we have pushed into new areas requiring new approaches and new collaborations. We look forward to the research community rising to this set of challenges, putting their best and brightest minds to the task of game-changing breakthroughs,” added Dr Rick Klausner, chair of the Grand Challenge advisory panel and former director of the US National Cancer Institute.