Grant Giving Model and Committees
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
is proud to be the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the
groundbreaking initiative dedicated to moving lifesaving therapies from the
laboratory to the patient in an accelerated timeframe. The AACR administers the
process by which SU2C fosters research through “Dream
Teams” of top researchers, and through other programs.
To date, SU2C has committed more than $480 million to
cancer research. The work of more than 1,500 researchers in the United States,
Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and other countries has been
supported by SU2C.
SU2C supports three types of research programs: large
multi-institutional Dream Teams, smaller Research Teams, and Innovative
Research Grants (IRGs) for younger investigators. Funds are distributed through
a review and selection process that is carefully designed to support cancer
research projects with the greatest potential to address critical problems in
patient care and deliver near-term patient benefit. Once a project is selected,
the researchers’ work is carefully monitored to make sure they are meeting the
project’s objectives and milestones.
Working with the AACR, a blue-ribbon Scientific
Advisory Committee (SAC) reviews Dream Team and Research Grant proposals,
makes recommendations on funding, and oversees the recipient’s progress
throughout the grant cycle. The committee is chaired by Nobel Laureate Phillip
A. Sharp, PhD, along with distinguished scientists Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, Raymond N. DuBois, MD, PhD, Lee J. Helman, MD, Arnold J. Levine, PhD, and
William G. Nelson, MD, PhD, as vice-chairpersons. The SAC also includes about
two dozen highly accomplished senior laboratory researchers and physician-scientists,
and two advocates. Joint Scientific Advisory Committees (JSACs) are formed to
review applications for grants funded jointly by SU2C and partner
Proposals for Innovative Research Grants are reviewed by a committee appointed
by the SAC. The committee is currently chaired by Sara A. Courtneidge, PhD, a
distinguished scientist, along with
vice-chairperson William G. Nelson, MD, PhD. The
previous committees, in 2009 and 2011, were chaired by Richard D. Kolodner, PhD.
In addition to these research programs, SU2C also
funds collaboration among grant recipients through the SU2C Phillip A. Sharp
Innovation in Collaboration Awards, named in honor of the SU2C Scientific
Advisory Committee Chair.
Dream Teams and Research Teams
Functions: Dream Teams and Research Teams support the pursuit of collaborative, novel, and groundbreaking cancer research projects that
address critical problems in patient care and are designed to deliver near-term
Funding: Recipients are given sufficient resources to support the required
focused, intense, goal-directed, team-oriented attack on the cancer problem.
Funding of recent Dream Teams has ranged up to $20 million over three years,
while Research Team recipients have received up to $2.6 million over
Composition: The research conducted by the Dream Teams and Research
Teams must be translational in nature. That is, they emphasize
taking important new findings from the laboratory to the patient bedside. In
order to maximize creativity and innovation, Dream Teams and Research Teams include laboratory and clinical researchers in scientific and technical
fields that are relevant to the research project, and senior investigators and
young scientists alike. The top two leaders of the team must be senior
scientists who have not worked together in the past. This is to ensure that
different perspectives will be brought to bear, and that scientists from
different institutions will collaborate in a common search for new solutions.
Process: The AACR issues a “Call for Ideas” for each available grant,
asking the research community for proposals. Finalists are selected from the
proposals submitted. The finalists meet face to face with a committee of SAC/JSAC
members, who listen to each proposal, ask questions directly of the
researchers, and then deliberate to select a team to be recommended for
Follow-up: The selected Dream Team or Translational Cancer Research Grant recipient submits
progress reports to the AACR every six months to ensure that the research
program is staying on track. In conjunction with the progress reports, site
visits are conducted by members of the SAC and JSAC and representatives of
SU2C, their funding partners, and the AACR.
Innovative Research Grants
Research Grants (IRG) program supports the kind of research not usually funded
by conventional sources – the kind with a high level of risk but also a high
level of potential impact on the prevention or treatment of cancer. The program
was established in honor of the late Judah Folkman, MD, who was one of the
great innovators in cancer research, an outstanding teacher of young
investigators, and an early contributor to the mission of SU2C.
The IRG program has provided 46 awards of up to
$250,000 per year for three years in both clinical and basic research. A
special multidisciplinary committee is appointed by the SAC to review the
proposals, assess progress and make recommendations for funding meritorious
applications that are most consistent with SU2C’s goals and objectives for
translational research and near-term patient benefit. A high priority is given
to the funding of young investigators (for example, at the assistant professor
level) who either have expertise in translational cancer research or clearly
demonstrate potential for it, and who are not currently members of the funded
Dream Teams. Since inception of the program, three classes of IRG awards have
been made – 13 in 2009, 13 in 2011, 10 in 2016, and 10 in 2017.
Updated: Mar. 21, 2019