Grant Giving Model and Expert Review Process

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 $205 million to cancer research. The work of more than 1,000 researchers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and other countries has been supported by SU2C.

SU2C supports three types of research programs: large multi-institutional Dream Teams, smaller Translational Grants, 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 Translational 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 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 organizations.
Proposals for Innovative Research Grants are reviewed by a committee appointed by the SAC. The committee is chaired by Richard D. Kolodner, PhD, a distinguished scientist and fellow of the AACR Academy, along with vice-chairpersons William G. Kaelin Jr., MD, and William G. Nelson, MD, PhD.

Funding Mechanisms

Dream Teams and Translational Grants
Functions: Dream Teams and Translational Grants are responsible for conducting collaborative, novel, groundbreaking cancer research projects that address critical problems in patient care and are designed to deliver near-term patient benefit.

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 Translational Grant recipients have received up to $1.5 million over three years.

The research conducted by the Dream Teams and Translational Grant recipients 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 Translational Grants 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.

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 funding.

The selected Dream Team or Translational 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
The Innovative 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 26 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, two classes of IRG awardees – 13 awarded in 2009 and 13 again in 2011 – have completed the program.