Receives Prestigious Grant for a Second Time

Professor Harald Stenmark is granted the European Research Council’s (ERC) Advanced Grant for his cancer research. This is the second time he receives the grant; a privilege that has only befallen two other people, professor Edvard Moser (NTNU) and professor Kenneth Hugdahl (UiB).

Through the grant Stenmark’s research project “Coincidence detection of proteins and lipids in regulation of cellular membrane dynamics (CODE)” is supported with 2.5 million Euros over a 5-year period.

Cell Codes Give Cancer Insight
The research is intended to reveal “codes” our body use to trigger certain processes in our cells. This is especially important in cancer research because an error in these important codes may lead to uncontrollable cell division and cancer. If we can decipher the “codes” the cell utilizes, we could exploit this biotechnologically. Furthermore, one of the research objectives is to develop artificial codes that can be used in bio-sensors.

One of The Elite
Professor Stenmark is certainly a very busy researcher. Currently he is also starting his second Norwegian Center of Excellence (SFF) called “CanCell – Centre for Cancer Cell Reprogramming”. A center that will continue the research on cell coding and how it can be a tool in future cancer treatment.

The Research Council in a comment on the grant describes Stenmark as one of the elite.

By getting his second ERC-grant Stenmark is consolidating his position as an elite scientist who is producing breakthrough cancer research on a European and global scale, says Per Magnus Kommandantvold, national ERC contact at the Norwegian Science Council.

HPV program: Perfect Use of Our Health Goldmine

Since 2009, The Cancer Registry of Norway has made use of health data in groundbreaking ways. They have taken the Nordic HPV vaccine program and turned it into a unique study using real world data. The project manager Mari Nygård hopes the study can inspire others to use health data in a similar ways and dig up ‘health treasures’ important to public health.

How the Project Started
HPV stands for “human papillomavirus” and is the most common sexually transmitted infection. The majority of those infected are not aware of this and most infections are harmless and do not give any symptoms. However, some HPV types can cause cancer and are called high risk HPV. The most well known being cervical cancer.

In the 2000s, the pharmaceutical company MSD developed the first vaccine to prevent the HPV virus and the cancers caused by it.

However, when the vaccine was approved, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanded that health data monitoring the effect and side-effects of the vaccine, had to be collected for 15 years because that’s the time it takes for a HPV infection to cause cell change and cervical cancer.

This led to MSD contacting the Cancer Registry. Together they, with other Nordic research communities, started monitoring the effect of the vaccine in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland.

Image: The Cancer Registry

Uses Real World Data
Mari Nygård, head of the Cancer Registry’s HPV-related epidemiological research unit, has managed the project from the beginning, and is proud of their contributions thus far.

— We monitor the effect of the vaccine by using real world data. Among other things, we are using health registries to follow up 10,000 participants for 15 years. Less than five per cent have dropped out so far. That is sensational. The study is really unique in a global context, says Nygård.

The goal of the study is to map side effects and endpoints. Endpoints can be vaccine-induced immune responses, precursors to cervical cancer or other types of cancer caused by the HPV included in the vaccine.

The researchers used the health registries to gather information regarding the endpoints and combined this with obtaining biological material from clinical bio-banks for virologic and pathomorphological analyses. In addition, blood samples were collected from the participants at regular intervals to test for vaccine-induced HPV antibodies.

In addition to several publications and a general competence boost regarding HPV for the Cancer Registry, the research has received great international recognition.

Important to Collaborate on Health Data
Nygård hopes that the HPV program can inspire others to conduct similar studies using health data.

— There is currently a great interest in health registry research, and we know that the information stored is a potential goldmine. Our collaboration with MSD proves that it is possible to find “health gold” beneficial to public health, and the industry can play an important part creating these solutions, says Nygård.

The pharmaceutical company MSD agrees, and is very pleased with the collaboration.

— The Cancer Registry has played an important global part in the development of MSD’s HPV vaccines. We are proud to have contributed to promoting the national registries during the collaboration, and believe this can be an example of how Norwegian data can be used in future drug development and drug follow-up, says Elen Høeg, responsible for vaccines at MSD.

Inven2’s Important Contribution
Inven2 has also been an important contributor to the project. The company has been responsible for getting the first agreements between The Cancer Registry and MSD in place.

— Agreeing on the first contract with MSD was a complex process, but we got there with Inven2’s help, says Nygård.

10th Cancer Crosslinks: Precision Treatment Reviewed

For the tenth time the cancer experts gathered to share knowledge and ideas at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Cancer Crosslinks 2018 presented a diverse program covering themes from immuno-oncology to cachexia, to big data.

 

Cancer research is changing rapidly. Immunotherapy and precision medicine has revolutionized cancer treatment. This year’s Cancer Crosslinks took a closer look at developments over the last decade, and highlighted “Precision Treatment: Exploiting Recent Advances – Fast and Furious?”.

Weber Gazed into the Crystal Ball
The leading immunotherapy expert professor Jeffrey S. Weber visited Cancer Crosslinks for a second time. Weber has worked with immunotherapy for 30 years.  He provided an overview on recent advances. He shared new data showing that the combination of a certain vaccine and a type of immunotherapy called Checkpoint inhibitors, are especially effective against cancer. He also gazed into the crystal ball and made predictions on the future of cancer treatment. Weber is optimistic and thinks there are several promising combinations of precision treatments on the horizon.  He believes we can hope for a survival rate of 70-80 percent for people with certain cancers.

A Fiber Diet is Recommendable
Professor Laure Bindels from Belgium explored the theme of Microbiome, Cancer and Cachexia. Diet can be an important tool to fight cancer and cancer symptoms. Her research on mice indicates that changing to a fiber-rich diet can prevent undernourishment and increase the survival rate for cancer patients.

Hege Russnes and Anne Hansen Ree introduced us to the MetAction project where they conduct extended personal diagnostic testing to give cancer patients better and more effective treatment.

From the USA, we were introduced to precision treatment of gynecological cancer from Douglas A. Levine.  He was followed by Professor Andreas Engert, who raised the hot topic of establishing joint European guidelines for treatment across Europe for hematological cancer.

A Big Maybe to Big Data
The last speakers of the day where Assistant Professor Marcela Maus from Harvard Medical School, and Elisabeth Wik and Marc Vaudel from the University of Bergen. Professor Maus explained the use of CAR T- cells in cancer treatment. CAR-T Cells are T-cells with modified receptors to make them more effective against certain diseases, in this case cancer.

Elisabeth Wik and Marc Vaudel, with backgrounds from cancer research and computer science, discussed the use of big data in cancer research and treatment. Will big data revolutionize cancer treatment? The answer is maybe. We don’t know yet, it has potential.  We need to continue exploration, research, and collaboration to find out.

Download the Presentations
For those of you who missed the event or would like to revisit:

You may watch most of the presentations here.

You can download presentations from the meeting here:

Opening and Welcome with Jutta Heix from Oslo Cancer Cluster and Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director Innovation, The Norwegian Research Council.

Jeffrey S. Weber. Opening Keynote: Cancer Immunotherapy – The Journey So Far and Where We Are Heading.
Jeffrey S. Weber, Professor, Deputy Director and Co-Director, Melanoma Program, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, USA.

Laure Bindels. International Keynote: The Microbiome, Cancer and Cachexia.
Laure Bindels, Louvain Drug Research Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium.

Hege G. Russnes and Anne Hansen ReeFrom Feasibility to Utility in Precision Medicine – Experiences from the first Norwegian Study of NGS-Based Therapy Decisions in Advanced Cancer.
Hege G. Russnes, Senior Consultant and Researcher, Oslo University Hospital, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Norway
Anne Hansen Ree, Professor, Akershus University Hospital, University of Oslo, Norway

Douglas A. Levine. International Keynote: Precision Medicine for Gynecologic Cancers – Opportunities and Obstacles.
Douglas A. Levine, Professor, Director of Gynecologic Oncology, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center & Head, Gynecology Research Laboratory, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, USA.

Andreas Engert. International Keynote: Roadmap for European Hematology Research and Hodgkin Lymphoma: (Immuno)therapy, Late Effects and the Way Forward.
Andreas Engert, Professor for Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, University Hospital of Cologne, Germany.

Marcela V. Maus. International Keynote: The Next Generation of Engineered T-cells for Immunotherapy of Hematological and Solid Tumors.
Marcela V. Maus, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School & Director of Cellular Immunotherapy, Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.

Marc Vaudel  and Elisabeth Wik: Making Sense of Big Data for Oncology Patients – Vision and Reality
Marc Vaudel, Center for Medical Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Haukeland University Hospital and KG Jebsen Center for Diabetes Research, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen, Norway
Elisabeth Wik, Centre for Cancer Biomarkers, University of Bergen and Department of Pathology, Haukeland University Hospital, Norway

New Funds for Ultimovacs

Investors are recognizing the huge potential of Oslo Cancer Cluster member Ultimovacs. They are currently investing an additional 125 million NOK in the cancer research company.

 

Well known investors and Ultimovacs backers Stein Erik Hagen, Anders Wilhelmsen og Bjørn Rune Gjelsten are among financiers putting fresh money into the cancer research company, according to the Norwegian newspaper Finansavisen.

Preparing for the Stock Exchange
Kjetil Fjeldanger,  the Ultimovacs chairman, believes a stock exchange listing within 12-18 months is realistic. – We will start the preparations for a stock exchange listing to prepare for further financing, says Fjeldanger.

Ultimovacs has so far gathered a lot of funds. However, a lot of funding still remains because of the sheer cost of doing cancer research.

– Current funds will fund us until the start of phase two of clinical studies, explains General Manager of Ultimovacs, Øyvind Arnesen.

Fighting Cancer with the Body’s Own Tools
The company is developing a cancer vaccine that helps the body’s own immune system fight cancer. Currently, three concluded studies have been combined into one, and all participating patients will now be followed closely during a five year period to monitor their survival rate.

– The patients are doing well, but the documentation is not sufficient, but we continue in very good spirits, explains Arnesen.

However, a commercial vaccine will not be for sale until 2021, according to Arnesen.

Arnesen and Ultimovacs are also initiating a new study on melanoma cancer where the vaccine is used in combination with the most common immunotherapy remedies. The hope is that the two methods will strengthen each other and make an efficient cancer fighting remedy together. The study will conclude in 18 months.

Targovax Releases Positive Clinical Results

Targovax has received very positive results regarding the survival rate of patients with pancreatic cancer.

Immune-oncology aims to help the body’s own immune system fight cancer and the ambition is to address the unmet need for long-term survival for patients with advanced cancers.

13 of 13
The company specializes in immune-oncology and is a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster. It recently released information revealing that 13 of 13 test subjects where alive after one year of treatment in a stage two clinical trial study. In addition, an active immune response–meaning the immune system was triggered to attack the cancer–was observed in as much as 11 of 13 patients.

No allergic reactions
These results came after the number of test subjects were reduced from 19 to 13 to see if allergic reactions stalled with reduced dosages of the TG01; Targovax’s lead RAS immunotherapy product. And luckily, no serious allergic reactions were observed,

Magnus  Jäderberg MD, Chief Medical Officer of Targovax, said:

– We are delighted that we maintain a strong immune response and one-year survival rate with the reduced dosing  regimen, essentially  equivalent  to  and  consistent with the previously  reported data  from the  main cohort.

These new results are so positive that stock market analysts DnB Markeds predict a serious stock market rise for Targovax.

 

About Targovax

Arming the patient’s immune system to fight cancer

Targovax is a clinical stage company focused on developing and commercializing novel immuno-oncology therapies to target, primarily, treatment-resistant solid tumors. Immuno-oncology is currently one of the fastest growing therapeutic fields in medicine.

In July, 2016 the Company listed its shares on Oslo Axess.

Read more

 

Missed Us at Oslo Innovation Week?

Luckily, all our events at Oslo Innovation Week and Forskningsdagene are available for a rerun. Have a look!

We had great audiences during our three events on the 27th and 28th of September. If your were not among them, sitting in the brand new science centre of the Norwegian Cancer Society, do not despair. The events were all live streamed on Facebook. You still have a chance to experience them right here.

The events were co-hosted with our partners the Norwegian Cancer Society, the Norwegian Radium Hospital Research Foundation (Radforsk), IBM, Cancer Research UK, Norway Health Tech and EAT.

 

The first event of the week was titled “Antibiotic resistance and cancer – current status, and how to prevent a potential apocalyptic scenario”.

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Antibiotic resistance and cancer – Current status, and how to prevent a potential apocalyptic scenario #OIW2017

Posted by Kreftforeningen on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

 

Our secondary event had the title “Cancer research and innovation – benefit for patients”.

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Cancer research and innovation – benefit for patients #OIW2017

Posted by Kreftforeningen on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

 

The third and final event on our Oslo Innovation Week calendar was about how big data may transform the development of cancer treatments. 

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How Big Data may transform the development of cancer treatments #OIW2017

Posted by Kreftforeningen on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Immunotherapy: Finding the Right Fit

A new Norwegian research collaboration helps uncover what treatments are the right fit for American cancer patients. Who are the collaborators and what are they doing?

There’s a lot of excitement and optimism concerning immuno-oncology, where the method is to utilize a person’s own immune system to treat cancer. However, excitement aside, methods such as this are often a costly experience, in expenses as well as negative and unpredictable side-effects for the person in treatment.

Calibrated Collaboration
Company OncoImmunity is collaborating with the Norwegian Cancer Genomics Consortium (NCGC) in finding out what is causing these serious and unpredictable side-effects.

– This collaboration is an exciting opportunity for us. This is because we can demonstrate the strength of our advanced bioinformatics tools and show how they can be used to detect combinations of genetic variation in the patient, as well as neoantigens in the tumour that can further be used as biomarkers for sensitivity to this type of cancer treatment, says Dr. Richard Stratford, CEO of OncoImmunity, in a recent press release.

OncoImmunity develops proprietary machine-learning software for personalized cancer immunotherapy. The company previously won a prestigious European grant for their work.

You can read about it here!

Patients with sarcomas
The researchers in the collaboration analyse the patient’s genes in the tumour. More specifically, they are looking at American patients by using pembrolizumab, a humanized antibody that blocks cancer protection, on patients with sarcoma – cancer in various binding tissues.

Sarcomas are a rare form of cancer where treatment for such procedures have not developed as much as other cancer treatments. Patients who have sarcoma have generally a worse prognosis than other groups.

The research will be shared with the organization Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration (SARC), helping researchers within the organization to better utilize the results.

The NCGC perspective
The NCGC has, with help from the Norwegian Research Council, established a platform for advanced analysis for such cases. On top of this, they have a vast network of expertise within the area of molecular oncology.

– We find it exciting to see better treatments that can work for multiple cancers where treatment provides promising results, despite limited response, says Professor Ola Myklebost, leader for NCGC and the research project, in a recent press release.

– It is important to be able to choose the right patients for the right treatments. Not only because the treatment is high in cost, but also because of the serious and negative side-effects, he adds.

Photocure’s Promising Combo

Photocure reveals promising results in bladder cancer through the use of Blue Light Cytoscopy alongside the drug Hexvix. 

Bladder cancer endangers 167,000 people in Europe annually followed by over 59,000 deaths.

Men are especially at risk, where a staggering 75% of bladder cancer cases occur. Not only that, but bladder cancer has a reputation as being one of the most expensive cancers to have, due to its high reccurence rate with an average of 61% reccurence the first year followed by 78% for the next five years.

The results we needed
As such, there is an increasingly urgent need to develop better methods of both managing and diagnosing the disease. We’re already hearing positive news from the Norwegian company Photocure; a leader in photodynamic technology. Photocure revealed the results from their study on the 18th of August, where the results appear promising in terms of prognosis and diagnosis.

The promising new combo
By combining Blue Light Cystoscopy (BLC) and Hexvix, Blue Light Cytoscopy being the insertion of a tube in the urinary tract instilled with a photosensitizing agent, they found the overall reccurence rate of three years had decreased substantially. More specifically, by combining Blue Light Cytoscopy with Hexvix, they found that the recurrence rate dropped down to 39% for the next three years, as opposed to using an optimized White Light Cytoscopy (WLC), a standard cytoscopy, that resulted in a 53.3% of reccurence.

Substantially better
The benefit was even more substantial for those with high-risk disease, where the chances of recurrence at year three were 52.1% for the Blue Light Cytoscopy combo as opposed to the White Light Cytoscopy, found to be at around 80%.

How does it work?
The probable reasoning for this improvement lies in how the new combo works to detect bladder cancer. By using Blue Light Cytoscopy with Hexvix, which is a drug that is selectively taken up by cancer cells in the bladder, they are able to see the cancer light up in bright pink. This enables the doctors  to accurately resect and make better management deciscions, thusly improving the patients outlook and way of life.

Roche Medicine Ready to Fight Breast Cancer

On the 15th of August, drug Kadycla (trastuzumab emtansin) is finally approved by the Beslutningsforum and ready to help hundreds with breast cancer in Norway.

The drug, developed by company Roche, specifically targets patients with the variant HER2 positive breast cancer – a breast cancer that tests positive for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a protein which promotes growth of cancer cells.

About 15-20% of cases in breast cancer, cancer cells have a gene mutation that produces excess HER2 protein, thusly making it a more aggressive form of breast cancer as well as being resistant to hormone therapy. However, treatments that specifically target HER2 are very effective.

New Drug Kadycla
This is where newly developed drug Kadycla comes in.

Kadycla is the first medicine targeted towards breast cancer patients where the cell lymph nodes are linked to the targeted antibody; meaning it’s the first drug where lymph nodes, or parts of the cell that filter out cancer, are linked to the antibody that attacks or even neutralizes the infected cell. This causes the chemo to target the HER2 positive cancer cells.

Prolonged Survival Rate
With the drugs approval, around one hundred Norwegian cancer patients are provided with a treatment program that shows a median prolonged survival rate of 5,8 months, compared to the combination of lapatinib and kapecitabine for persons with the variant HER2-positive breast cancer.

Better Quality of Life
On top of this, it’s known that spreading breast cancer is a deadly disease with lower quality of life, but Kadycla helps by attacking cancer cells in place of the body’s own healthy cells. Essentially, this means better quality of life for the patient due to fewer symptoms brought on by the disease.

Reached an Agreeable Solution
Kadycla, since September in 2014, has been recommended in the Norwegian Breast Cancer Group’s medical guidelines for those who would benefit from its capabilities. Roche, in this case, through the span of three years aligned eight different pricing options for the authorities. In regards to this, Audun Ohna, director of market access and pricing, comments:

– We have worked a long time so that Norwegian breast cancer patients can have the chance to use Kadycla in Norwegian health services. After roughly three years negotiating, where we have stretched ourselves thin both economically and in variating payment solutions, we can finally and gladly say we have reached a solution that is both acceptable for both parties. This will benefit patients, doctors and society as a whole.

Meet our new members – Part One

We are proud to introduce Oslo Cancer Cluster’s new members. This is the first part of two stories about our new members.

You can find the second part HERE.

On the 24th of August, Oslo Cancer Cluster hosted a summer party with the intention of getting to know their newest members in an informative and fun setting. The party started with a heartfelt welcome and speech held by Oslo Cancer Cluster’s General Manager Ketil Widerberg and intensive mingling amongst guests. After the welcome was in order, each member stood up, in turn, to introduce their amazing work.

Of the 14 new members we have so far this year, here’s an introduction to those who primarily work in the area of biotechnology.

Precision Oncology
Precision Oncology is a specialty contract research organization (CRO) that provides clinical research services. The company primarily provides application of metrics-driven project management to perfect oncology drug development.

As for their inspiration and reasoning for joining the Oslo Cancer Cluster roster of members, Andrea Cotton-Berry, head of Strategic operations at Precision Oncology, responds:

– What really inspires us at Precision Oncology, is matching the right drug to the right patient, by using biomarkers for patient identification and stratification; a true personalized medicine approach, to find more efficient treatments for patients with advanced cancers. We are looking forward to bringing our team of oncology development experts to contribute to the Oslo Cancer Cluster mission and initiatives, especially advancing immuno-oncology research.

Personalis
Personalis is a leading preciscion medicine company focused on advancing next generation sequencing based services for immuno-oncology. The company is mainly focused on producing the most accurate genetic sequence from each sample set, and using analytics and privately owned content to draw reliable and accurate biomedical interpretations of the data.

In regards to current and future inspiration, Erin Newburn, Senior Manager and Field Applications Scientist at Personalis, comments:

– We aspire to utilize next-generation sequencing as a multi-dimensional platform for bio-marker discovery across cancer therapeutics, as well as throughout developmental stages.

iNANOD
iNANOD is a nanotechnology based anti-cancer drug developing company established in 2016. Their goal is to increase efficacy of anti-cancer drugs and to reduce side-effects for cancer patients as well as maximizing the patients longevity. They aim to become a pharmaceutical company for anti-cancer nanomedicines in the near future.

As for expectations and reasoning for joining Oslo Cancer Cluster, Nalinava Sengupta, CEO and Co-Founder of iNANOD shares his view:

– We think our project – to develop cancer nano-medicine – fits best with Oslo Cancer Cluster. In the incubator we get in touch with other similar firms who have achieved milestones in cancer drug delivery. We expect synergistic knowledge transfer within the incubator network, as well as various kinds of help from the cancer research related entrepreneurial ecosystem developed at Oslo Cancer Cluster. This also helps with business developmental aspects and project application writing.

Norgenotech
Norgenotech is a start-up company that originated from the EU project COMICS that aimed at improving production methods for analysis of DNA damage and repair. Norgenotech mainly assesses genotoxicity, or property of chemical agents that damage the genetic information within a cell, as well as drugs. The company also participates in research projects and developing tools for measuring DNA integrity in patients.

Eisai
Eisai AB originates from a global company in Japan that is active in the manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceutical drugs, pharmaceutical production systems, and over-the-counter drugs. Eisai AB, that will be joining the Oslo Cancer Cluster roster of members, is the sales subsidiary of Eisai Company.

Immunitrack
Immunitrack is a startup company with capabilities in production and studies of protein molecules central to the adaptive immune system in humans in order to develop new therapeutics. Their mission is to provide the research community with tools to redesign or select drug candidates at the early stage of research and development, but also to provide reagents to monitor leading drug candidates effect on patient’s immune system.

Nacamed
Nacamed‘s goal is to produce nanoparticles of silicon material for targeted drug delivery of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and diagnostics to kill cancer cells. By using silicon nanoparticles in cases such as therapy, the particles are biodegradable which entails a clean delivery without any side-effects as they completely disappear and dissolve from the body.

Arctic Pharma
Arctic Pharma is a privately held startup biotech company founded in 2012 that primarily focuses on developing innovative anti-cancer drugs. They do this by exploiting cancer cells and their peculiar features, or more specifically, by targeting key enzymes that are upregulated, or have been increased in terms of stimulus with inhibitors designed at Arctic Pharma. Essentially, their main mission is to become a leader in designing cancer therapies that are both environmentally friendly and have few side effects.