Dr. Nadia Mensali (in the middle) and her colleagues from Oslo University Hospital in their cell lab at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. Photo: Christopher Olssøn

Natural killer cells dressed to kill cancer cells

New research: A new study may potentially enable scientists to provide cancer immunotherapy that is cheaper, faster and more manageable.

New work by researchers with laboratories at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator may help to dramatically improve a T cell-based immunotherapy approach so that it can benefit many more patients.

 

T cell assassins

T cells are the professional killers of the immune system – they have a unique capability to specifically recognize ‘foreign’ material, such as infected cells or cancer cells. This highly specific recognition is achieved through receptors on the surface of T cells, named T cell receptors (TCRs). Once its receptor recognizes foreign material, a T cell becomes activated and triggers the killing of the infected or cancerous cell.

T cell receptors (TCRs): receptors on the surface of T cells, that recognize foreign material and activate the T cell. This triggers the killing of the infected or cancerous cell by the T cell.

 

Adoptive cell therapy 

Unfortunately, many cancers have adapted fiendish ways to avoid recognition and killing by T cells. To combat this issue, an immunotherapy approach known as adoptive cell therapy (ACT) has been developed in recent years. One such ACT approach is based on the injection of modified (or ‘re-directed’) T cells into patients. The approach is further explained in the illustration below.

 

Illustration from the research paper ‘NK cells specifically TCR-dressed to kill cancer cells’.

 

The left side of the illustration shows how redirected T-cell therapy involves:

1) Harvesting T cells from a cancer patient

2) Genetic manipulation of T cells to make them express an ideal receptor for recognizing the patient’s cancer cells

3) Growing T cells in culture to produce high cell numbers

4) Treating patients with large quantities of redirected T cells, which will now recognize and kill cancer cells more effectively

 

An alternative approach 

Adoptive T cell therapy has delivered very encouraging results for some cancer patients, but its application on a larger scale has been limited by the time consuming and costly nature of this approach. In addition, the quality of T cells isolated from patients who have already been through multiple rounds of therapy can sometimes be poor.

Researchers have long searched for a more automated form of adoptive cell therapy that would facilitate faster and more cost-effective T cell-based cancer immunotherapy.

One approach that has seen some success involves the use of different immune cells called Natural Killer cells – NK cells in brief.

Despite their great potential, NK cells have unfortunately not yet been proven to provide a successful alternative to standard T cell-based cancer immunotherapy. One major reason for this may be that, because NK cells do not possess T cell receptors, they are not very effective at specifically detecting and killing cancer cells.

NK cell lines: Natural Killer cells (NK cells) have the ability to recognise and kill infected or cancerous cells. Scientists have been able to manipulate human NK cells so that they grow without restriction in the lab. This is called a cell line. It enables a continuous and unlimited source of NK cells that could be used to treat cancer patients.

 

Cells dressed to kill

The group led by Dr. Sébastien Wälchli and Dr. Else Marit Inderberg at the Department of Cellular Therapy aimed to address this issue and improve NK cell-based therapies.

They reasoned that by editing NK cells to display anti-cancer TCRs on their cell surface they could combine the practical benefits of NK cells with the potent cancer killing capabilities of T cells. This is shown in the right hand side of the illustration above.

The researchers found that by simply switching on the production of a protein complex called CD3, which associates with the TCR and is required for T cell activation, they could indeed induce NK cells to display active TCRs. These ‘TCR-NK cells’ acted just like normal T cells, including their ability to form functional connections to cancer cells and subsequently mount an appropriate T cell-like response to kill cancer cells.

This was a surprising and important finding, as it was not previously known that NK cells could accommodate TCR signaling.

This video shows TCR-NK cell-mediated killing of cancer cells in culture. The tumour cells are marked in green. Tumour cells that start dying become blue. The overlapping colours show dead tumour cells.

 

The researchers went on to show that TCR-NK cells not only targeted isolated cancer cells, but also whole tumours.

The method was proven to be effective in preclinical studies of human colorectal cancer cells in the lab and in an animal model.  This demonstrates its potential as an effective new form of cancer immunotherapy.

 

Paving the way

Lead researcher Dr. Nadia Mensali said:

“These findings pave the way to the development of a less expensive, ready-to-use universal TCR-based cell therapy. By producing an expansive ‘biobank’ of TCR-NK cells that detect common mutations found in human cancers, doctors could select suitable TCR-NK cells for each patient and apply them rapidly to treatment regimens”.

Whilst further studies are needed to confirm the suitability of TCR-NK cells for widespread treatment of cancer patients, the researchers hope that these findings will be the first step on the road towards off-the-shelf immunotherapy drugs.

 

  • Read the whole research paper at Science Direct. The paper is called “NK cells specifically TCR-dressed to kill cancer cells”.
  • The researchers behind the publication consists of Nadia Mensali, Pierre Dillard, Michael Hebeisen, Susanne Lorenz, Theodossis Theodossiou, Marit Renée Myhre, Anne Fåne, Gustav Gaudernack, Gunnar Kvalheim, June Helen Myklebust, Else Marit Inderberg, Sébastien Wälchli.
  • Read more about research from this research group in this article from January.
  • Read more about Natural Killer cells in this Wikipedia article.

 

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The panel discussion during Cancer Crosslinks 2019 was about the need to implement precision diagnostic methods in Norwegian health care. In the panel from the left: Kristin Vinje, Vice-Dean at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Oslo, Bjørn Tore Gjertsen (hidden in picture), Professor at Haukeland University Hospital and University of Bergen, Hege G. Russnes, Senior Consultant and Researcher at Oslo University Hospital, Ola Myklebost, Professor at University of Bergen and Christian Kersten, Senior Consultant at Center for Cancer Treatment, Sørlandet Hospital. All photos: Fullscreen Visuals

Getting genomics into healthcare: look to the UK

Discussing health care at Cancer Crosslinks 2019

During Cancer Crosslinks 2019, one thing was crystal clear: there is a need to include broader genomic testing into treatments for cancer patients in Norway.

“We are lacking behind here in Norway!”

Professor Ola Myklebost, from the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen, was definitely ready for action in the panel debate at Cancer Crosslinks 2019, fittingly named “Call for Action”.

The panel and the audience of about 300 people had just listened to the talk given by James Peach. He is the Precision Medicine Lead at UK Medicines Discovery Catapult, Alderly Park, and prior to this, he was the Managing Director at the main programme for Genomics England from 2013 to 2017 and led the UK’s Stratified Medicines Program.

Peach told the audience how they have been implementing precision medicine into the public health care system (NHS) in the UK, using genomic testing, during the last decade. He demonstrated how the industry is part of this public endeavour, how political support and investment contributed to industry development, and how they addressed complex issues like sharing health data and using artificial intelligence.

It started with very little.

“In 2010, we had no structure”, Peach told the audience.

James Peach presenting at Cancer Crosslinks 2019

Sequencing 100,000 genomes
Thanks to all the British cancer patients who consented to Genomics England using their data, and a lot of common public-private efforts, Genomics England has now reached its goal of sequencing 100,000 whole genomes from NHS patients, according to their webpage. It takes a lot to accomplish this number, but luckily there are things to learn from the UK effort.

“Circulating tumour DNA testing is absolutely necessary”, Peach said from the podium.

The Life Science Sector deal from the British government outlines this public-private effort. It shows how significant government commitment, funding and strategic actions triggered investment and initiatives from the life science industry. You can read the entire document at the official webpage of the British Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, following this link.

James Peach visited Norway earlier as a speaker at Cancer Crosslinks 2012. Returning now, he was truly surprised about the current state of precision medicine in Norway.

Concerned about Norway
In an interview with Oslo Cancer Cluster, James Peach shared a concern as an answer to the question “What impressions are you left with after this conference?” 

“It has left me quite concerned about the state of precision medicine in Norway. I thought you would be looking forward to the things you could do, but it turns out that there are actually some things that you should have done already.”

“Like what things?” 

“Like universal application of a cancer panel test that is commercially feasible and deals around getting your data shared appropriately.”

Do you think we can have a Genomics Norway?”

“Of course. It is probably about combining two things. One is that you got to get the basic stuff right. People need to have access to gene tests for their clinical care. Luckily the people here are a group of experts who are all connected to each other and who understand the system. It is not a massive system. I think there is a real chance to choose an area where Norway could do it exceptionally well. What that area is, is for you to choose.”

Concerns in Norway
Back in the panel discussion, Hege G. Russnes, Pathologist, Senior Consultant and Researcher at Oslo University Hospital, was getting involved:

“We need more information to help clinicians make therapy decisions. (…) Norway has no plan or recommendation for multi gene tests.”

Christian Kersten, Senior Consultant at the Center for Cancer Treatment at Sørlandet Hospital, agreed.

“I’m the clinician, I treat patients, patients die because of metastasis. I have been treating cancer patients for 20 years now and I feel it increasingly difficult to keep the trust of the patient.”

“If you ask the patients, they will sign the papers with consent of sharing data in 99% of the cases”, Myklebost added.

“We are only 5 million, we do not have to reinvent the wheel. Erna Solberg should invite James Peach for a cup of tea”, Christian Kersten said, finishing up the panel talk.

 

The entire panel debate is available to watch at the webcast webpage:

WATCH THE PANEL DEBATE

 

More on UK Medicines Discovery Catapult 

Did this brief article make you interested in the work that James Peach and UK Medicines Discovery Catapult does? In this short video, Peach explains the challenges with access to health data for drug discovery and how to overcome them:

 

More from Cancer Crosslinks 

We have more from Cancer Crosslinks 2019 coming up. Stay tuned and subscribe to our newsletter, and you will not miss videos of the talks and interviews with the other distinguished speakers at the conference.

New research from the immunomonitoring unit of the Department of Cellular Therapy at Oslo University Hospital is now available in a video and an article in the the Journal of Visualized Experiments, Jove. Photo: Christopher Olssøn.

New research: 3D structure tumors in immunotherapy

Researcher testing lab sample.

New work from cancer researchers at the Department of Cellular Therapy could help to streamline the development of exciting new immunotherapy approaches for treating cancer.

Cancer treatments that aim to switch on a patient’s immune system to kill tumor cells – so-called immunotherapy approaches – have received much attention and encouraging results in recent years. Now, the immunomonitoring unit of the Department of Cellular Therapy at Oslo University Hospital has devised a new experimental approach that could improve early stages of the immunotherapy development pipeline.

The unit is present in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator with a translational research lab, led by Drs. Else Marit Inderberg and Sébastien Wälchli.

Researchers in laboratory.

Dr. Sébastien Wälchli and colleagues in the translational research lab in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. Photo: Christopher Olssøn

CAR T cells drive new successes
Our immune systems are generally very good at recognizing foreign infectious agents and disposing of them appropriately. However, although our immune systems are capable of recognizing tumors as a threat, cancer cells have adapted mechanisms that enable them to evade the immune response. Immunotherapy is the name given to a range of different approaches that aim to overcome this problem by improving the immune system’s ability to target cancer cells.

One relatively new example of an immunotherapy approach comes from CAR T cells. These are produced by isolating specific cells of the immune system (T cells) from a cancer patient and modifying them so that they become more effective at recognizing and killing cancer cells. The modified T cells are then placed back into the patient so that they can ‘home in’ on the tumor and kill the cancer cells.

Read about related research: T-cells and the Nobel Price

Difficult for solid cancers
Current models for testing new CAR T cells aren’t always optimal. Although CAR T cells have shown encouraging results in treating some cancers, particularly the blood cancers leukemia and lymphoma, the development of CAR T cells for non-blood, or ‘solid’, cancers has been more difficult.

In part, this is due to the fact that tumor models currently used in early stages of testing involve two-dimensional monolayers of cancer cells, which do not reflect the complex three-dimensional structure and organization of solid tumors found in patients.

Consequently, CAR T cells that show encouraging results using these two-dimensional models often produce less effective results at later stages of the development pipeline, meaning time, effort and resources are wasted.

3D tumor spheroids
To improve the early stages of testing new CAR T cells, Dr. Wälchli’s group has developed a new approach that enables researchers to grow three-dimensional cancer cell structures, or ‘spheroids’, in the lab, and to test the effect that CAR T cells have on killing off these spheroids.

Compared to current two-dimensional methods, the spheroids are more similar in complexity and structure to tumors found in patients.

In a recent publication in the Journal of Visualized Experiments, this group demonstrated for the first time that their spheroid approach has the potential to provide a useful new tool for developing CAR T cells.

They generated spheroids using colorectal cancer cells – a type of cancer for which there is currently no effective CAR T cell therapy available. These cancer cells were modified so that they possessed a molecule on their cell surface called CD19, which is known to be recognized by certain CAR T cells. The researchers then incubated these spheroids with CD19-targeting CAR T cells and used advanced live imaging techniques to track the effect on cancer spheroids.

To help other research groups who would like to start using the spheroid technique, Dr. Wälchli’s publication is accompanied by this video which introduces the approach and provides a basic overview of how it works. The Journal of Visualized Experiments requires a subscription to see the entire video. You can also read a PDF of the article “A Spheroid Killing Assay by CAR T Cells” without a subscription.

Successful approach
As expected, shortly after adding CAR T cells, the researchers could detect that spheroids were shrinking due to cancer cell death, proving that their approach successfully measures CAR T cell-induced tumor clearance in a quantitative manner.

Discussing the work, Dr. Wälchli says, “We believe this method can help to answer key questions about using 3D structure tumors as a suitable alternative for testing new immunotherapy approaches.”

The approach now opens the door for testing a range of different target molecules in combination with new CAR T cells targeting those molecules.

Fast, affordable and straightforward
Dr. Wälchli believes many researchers could benefit from the spheroid technique. He continues,

“A major advantage to our approach is that it is fast, affordable and straightforward, meaning any research group with the right equipment can test the effect of their immunotherapy on 3D tumors before moving to animal models”.

From the left: Professor Naiyer Rizvi, Dr. Marco Gerlinger and Dr. Aaron Goodman. Photos: Columbia University Medical Center / ICR / UC San Diego Health

International speakers at Cancer Crosslinks

International speakers at Cancer Crosslinks 2019

How can research help implement the next wave of precision oncology for patients? Meet the experts behind the research.

 

These leading international experts are part of the programme at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, 17 January.
Not signed up for the 11thCancer Crosslinks yet? Join in here!

 

Professor Naiyer Rizvi is an internationally recognized leader in the treatment of lung cancer and immunotherapy drug development. He is the director of both thoracic oncology and of immunotherapeutics for the division of haematology and oncology at Columbia University Medical Center, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, New York, USA.

Prior to joining Columbia University Medical Center, his clinical research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer played a significant role in the FDA approval path of a new class of immunotherapies, called immune checkpoint inhibitors, for melanoma and lung cancer.

Rizvi studies mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to immunotherapy. Through genetic testing of tumours, he has been able to improve the understanding of why immune checkpoint inhibitors work in certain patients.

Rizvi is also studying why certain cancers do not respond to immune checkpoint inhibitors. This way we can find better ways to harness the immune system to attack cancer cells.

He oversees phase 1 immunotherapy research in solid tumours at Columbia University Medical Center and is conducting key clinical studies of novel immunotherapy drugs and immunotherapy combinations to help more patients in the fight against cancer.

Professor Naiyer Rizvi

During Cancer Crosslinks, Professor Rizvi will give the opening keynote speech titled: “Sensitivity and resistance to immuno-oncology: Biological insights and their translation into precision treatment”.

 

Dr. Aaron Goodman, MD, is a haematologist and medical oncologist specialized in treating a variety of blood cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and multiple myeloma. He holds a position as Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, California.

Dr. Goodman performs stem cell transplants for cancer treatment. He also treats people with rare haematologic disorders using experimental therapeutics.

His research interests include immunotherapy and cellular therapy treatment for haematologic malignancies and identifying biomarkers for response to immunotherapy.

Dr. Aaron Goodman

During Cancer Crosslinks, Dr. Aaron Goodman will present and discuss the clinical aspects of tumour mutational burden and other tissue agnostic biomarkers for cancer immunotherapy.

 

Dr. Randy F. Sweis is an Assistant Professor in the haematology/oncology section at the University of Chicago. He works with cancer immunology, developmental therapeutics and biomarkers, with a clinical interest in phase 1 clinical trials and genitourinary malignancies. His laboratory research involves the identification and targeting of tumour-intrinsic immunotherapy resistance pathways.

Dr. Sweis is the recipient of numerous awards. In 2017, he was elected to co-lead TimIOs, an international project aimed at tackling tumor heterogeneity to enhance immunotherapy responses supported by the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).

Dr. Randy F. Sweis

During Cancer Crosslinks, Dr. Randy F. Sweis presents his work on immunophenotypes: The T cell-inflamed tumour microenvironment as a biomarker and its clinical implications.

 

Dr. Marco Gerlinger is a clinician scientist at the Center for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research in London. He develops novel techniques to detect and track intra-tumour heterogeneity in solid tumours to define evolutionary plasticity and common evolutionary trajectories in cancers.

Dr. Gerlinger uses genomics technologies for treatment personalization. He treats patients with gastrointestinal cancers at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

One of the key aims of his work is to develop strategies to improve predictive and prognostic biomarker performance and the efficacy of drug therapy in heterogeneous cancers.

He contributes to The Darwin Cancer Blog– on mutational evolution of cancer.

Dr. Marco Gerlinger

During Cancer Crosslinks, Dr. Marco Gerlinger will share the latest insights into cancer evolution and discuss the limits of predictability in precision cancer medicine. 

 

Professor Dr. med. Lars Bullinger is Professor of Hematology and Oncology and Medical Director of the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Tumor Immunology at Charité University Medicine Berlin.

He is a partner in the Innovative Medicines Initiative project HARMONY (Healthcare alliance for resourceful medicines offensive against neoplasms in haematology) aiming to use big data to deliver information that will help to improve the care of patients with haematologic cancers.

In this video from June, you get a preview of the subject he will talk about at Cancer Crosslinks: 

During Cancer Crosslinks, Dr. Lars Bullinger will give an international keynote speech about haematological cancers, emerging treatment opportunities and the impact of big data. 

 

James Peach is the Precision Medicine Lead at UK Medicines Discovery Catapult, Alderly Park, UK. Prior to this role, he was the Managing Director at the main programme for Genomics England from 2013 to 2017.

Peach is a precision medicine strategist and operational leader with investment, commercial and public sector experience across cancer, rare diseases, and genetics. James Peach gave the opening keynote at Cancer Crosslinks 2012 – at that time as the Director for Stratified Medicine at Cancer Research UK, London.

In this video James Peach explains the challenges with access to health data for drug discovery and how to overcome them:

During Cancer Crosslinks, James Peach will present his perspectives on the implementation of precision medicine in the UK and discuss the status, lessons learned and the way forward. 

 

Not signed up for Cancer Crosslinks yet? Join in here!

 

 

This is a T-cell, or more precisely, an actin cytoskeleton of a T lymphocyte. The picture is obtained by a special microscope. The cell’s size is 38*38 μm. Photo: Pierre Dillard

T-cells and the Nobel Price

What does the Nobel Prize have to do with cancer research in Oslo Cancer Cluster?

This year the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer. This was a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options.

A statement from the Nobel committee hailed the accomplishments of Allison and Honjo as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.”

This principle, the idea behind much of the immunotherapy we see developing today, is shared by several of our Oslo Cancer Cluster members, including Oslo University Hospital and the biotech start-up Zelluna.

– This year’s Nobel Price winners have contributed to giving new forms of immunotherapy treatments to patients, resulting in improved treatments to cancer types that previously had poor treatment alternatives, especially in combination with other cancer therapies, said doctor Else Marit Inderberg as a comment to the price.

She leads the immunomonitoring unit of the Department of Cellular Therapy at Oslo University Hospital. The unit is present in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator with a translational research lab.

Inderberg has been studying and working with T-cells since 1999, first within allergies and astma, before she was drawn to cancer research and new cancer therapies in 2001.

So, what is a T-cell?
T-cells have the capacity to kill cancer cells. These T-cells are a subtype of white blood cells and play a central role in cell-mediated immunity. They are deployed to fight infections and cancer, but malignant cells can elude them by taking advantage of a switch – a molecule – on the T-cell called an immune checkpoint. Cancer cells can lock onto those checkpoints, crippling the T-cells and preventing them from fighting the disease.

The drugs based on the work of Nobel Prize winners Allison and Honjo belong to a class called checkpoint inhibitors – the same immune checkpoint that we find on T-cells. Drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors can physically block the checkpoint, which frees the immune system to attack the cancer.

Group leaders Else Marit Inderberg and Sébastien Wälchli often work in one of the cell labs in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. Photo: Christopher Olssøn

 

– We work on other ways of activating the immune system, but in several clinical trials we combine cancer vaccines or other therapies with the immune-modulating antibody, the checkpoint inhibitors, which the Nobel Price winners developed, Inderberg explained.

Inderberg and her team of researchers in the translational research lab in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator use the results from the Nobel Price winners’ research in their own research in order to develop their own therapy and learn more about the mechanisms behind the immune cells’ attack on the cancer cells and the cancer cells’ defence against the immune system.

– This Nobel Prize is very inspiring for the entire field and it contributes to making this kind of research more visible, Else Marit Inderberg added.

– Our challenge now is to make new forms of cancer therapies available for a large number of patients and find ways to identify patient groups who can truly benefit from new therapies – and not patients who will not benefit. Immunotherapy also has some side effects, and it is important that we keep working on these aspects of the therapy as well.

From research to company
Most of the activity of the translational research lab in Oslo relies on the use of a database of patient samples called the biobank. This specific biobank represents an inestimable source of information about the patients’ response to immunological treatments over the years. Furthermore, the patient material can be reanalysed and therapeutic molecules isolated. This is the basis of the Oslo Cancer Cluster member start-up company Zelluna.

 

Want to know more about Zelluna and the research they are spun out of?

This is a story about their beginning.

Curious about new research from the Department of Cellular Therapy in Oslo?

More on their webpage.

 

The Vaccibody Team at Oslo Science Park. Photo: Vaccibody

Prestigious partnership for Vaccibody

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody is entering into a clinical collaboration with the American biopharmaceutical company Nektar Therapeutics.

The aim of the collaboration is to explore positive effects from the combination of Vaccibody’s personalized cancer vaccine VB10.NEO and Nektar Therapeutics cancer drug NKTR-214. Pre-clinical results of the combination are very positive and the collaboration will mark the start of a clinical trial stage.

The clinical trials will include patients with head and neck cancer and initially involve 10 patients.

What is Nektar?
Nektar Therapeutics is not just any company when it comes to immunotherapy. At Nasdaq their market value is set as high as 10 billion dollars.

– For a year now, Nektar might be the most talked about company within immunotherapy and this winter they landed the largest deal of its kind with Bristol Meyers-Squibb (BMS), says Agnete Fredriksen, President and Chief Scientific Officer, in an interview with Norwegian newspaper Finansavisen.

Help more patients
BMS and Nektar started collaborating on the development of the immunotherapy drug NKTR-214, the same drug that is part of the collaboration with Vaccibody, with a potential worth of 3.6 billion dollars.

– That they want to work with us is a nice validation of Vaccibody and makes us able to help even more cancer patients. We hope the combination of our products will lead to even better treatments, Agnete Fredriksen says to Finansavisen.

More about Vaccibody’s cancer vaccine

Nektar and Vaccibody each will maintain ownership of their own compounds in the clinical collaboration, and the two companies will jointly own clinical data that relate to the combination of their respective technologies. Under the terms of the agreement and following the completion of the pilot study, the two companies will evaluate if they will take the partnership to the next stage.

The Norwegian life science stand 2018 at Nordic Life Science Days. Our partners this year were Norway Health Tech, Aleap, University of Oslo: Life Science, The Life Science Cluster, Invent2, NORIN, Nansen Neuroscience Network, LMI, Innovation Norway and The Norwegian Research Council.

Norwegian life science on exhibition

The strong life science actors in Norway joined forces during the conference Nordic Life Science Days 2018.

Oslo Cancer Cluster aims to enhance the visibility of oncology innovation made in Norway by being a significant partner for international clusters, global biopharma companies and academic centres. We used the conference Nordic Life Science Days 2018 in Stockholm this September week to show the growing Norwegian life science environment.

The Norwegian stand
From 2015 onward, we have had a Norwegian stand promoting Norwegian healthcare and life science industry together with other life science actors in Norway. Our partners this year were Norway Health TechAleapUniversity of Oslo: Life ScienceThe Life Science ClusterInvent2NORINNansen Neuroscience NetworkLMI, Centre for Digital Life NorwayInnovation Norway and The Norwegian Research Council. Together we represent the essence of Norwegian Life Science.

 

The Norwegian delegation with Ambassador Christian Syse visited the stand in 2018. From the left: Jutta Heix, International Advisor at Oslo Cancer Cluster, Christian Syse, the Norwegian Ambassador to Sweden, Tina Norlander, Senior Advisor in Innovation Norway and Jeppe Bucher, Intern at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm.

 

A European meeting place
There are several important meeting places for life science actors in Europe, such as BIO-Europe, BIO-Europe Spring and Nordic Life Science Days at the top of the list. Oslo Cancer Cluster is the oncology partner at the Nordic Life Science Days.

Are you interested in what the big oncology session during the Nordic Life Science Days 2018 was all about? The topic was cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology.

This article gives you the highlights of the session.

More Nordic collaboration
As a region, the Nordic countries are of international importance in the field of cancer research and innovation, especially in precision medicine, and Oslo Cancer Cluster participates in advancing Nordic collaboration. Oslo Cancer Cluster also engages in more cancer specific European events. One example is the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy Meeting (CIMT), which is the largest European meeting in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

Read more about our international work

The panel of experts during the oncology super session at Nordic Life Science Days 2018 in Stockholm, discussing the challenges and possibilities in cancer immunotherapy.

The next wave in cancer immunotherapy

What is driving the next wave of innovation in cancer immunotherapy?

This was the question the experts tried to answer in the oncology session of the conference Nordic Life Science Days in Stockholm 12 September.

International experts from pharma, biotech, academia and the investment community discussed how different approaches to innovative cancer treatments could address challenges and shape the next wave of innovation in cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology.

They touched upon approaches such as big data, personalized medicine, new targets and lessons from neuroscience.

Over the past few years, the rapid development of novel cancer immunotherapy approaches has fundamentally disrupted the oncology space. Cancer immunotherapy has not only become a key component of cancer therapy, but it has also reshaped priorities in oncology research and development (R&D) across the industry, with unprecedented clinical success in certain cancer types continuing to fuel record investment and partnering activity.

As of today, more than 2.000 immuno-oncology agents, including checkpoint-inhibitors, vaccines, oncolytic viruses and cellular therapies are in preclinical or clinical development.

Read more about the cellular therapy research of Oslo Cancer Cluster members Oslo University Hospital and Zelluna.

Why so little effect? 
Despite all of this promising research, only a minority of patients benefits from effective and durable immuno-oncology treatments. Why is this happening?

Part of the answer is found in resistance or unexplained lack of response. This could be addressed through a better understanding of optimal timing of therapy, better combination therapy design, or improved patient selection. Another part of the answer lies in a lack of novel targets and of an overall better understanding of specific immune mechanisms. This lack of understanding is becoming a roadblock to further advance in this research space.

What can the experts do about this? It turns out they have several approaches. Two of the main ones include big data and turning so-called cold tumours hot.

Big data will expand
“We believe that this can be changed by adding deep and broad data from multiple sources”, said Richa Wilson, Associate Director, Digital and Personalized Healthcare in Roche Partnering.

“We use the words meaningful data at scale, that means high quality data with a purpose: to answer key scientific questions”, she said at the session.

These data will continue to evolve from clinical trials and aggregated trials and registries and in the future from real time and linked data. There was about 150 exabytes health data in 2015 and in 2020 it is expected to grow into 2300 exabytes, mainly from digital health apps and scans from the hospitals, Oslo Cancer Cluster member Roche presented.

Hot and cold tumours 
Emilio Erazo-Fischer, Associate Director of Global Oncology Business Development at Boehringer Ingelheim explained the cold and hot tumours and how the cold tumours can be turned hot and thus open for cancer immunology treatment. It is well explained in this short film by Oslo Cancer Cluster member Boehringer Ingelheim

Martin Bonde, CEO of Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody also presented how they try to turn the cold tumours hot.

The Norwegian company Vaccibody is a leader in the field of cancer vaccines and they are very ambitious. They currently have a trial for melanoma, lung, bladder, renal, head and neck cancer.

The impact of stress
Erica Sloan is the group leader of the Cancer & Neural-Immune Research Laboratory in Monash University in Australia. She gave a talk on how neural signalling stops immunotherapy working. The researchers at Monash University have led mouse studies where the nervous system is stressed. They show that immunotherapies fail unless peripheral neural stresses are excluded.

The threat of a cancer diagnosis is stressful, as are most certainly cancer and cancer treatments. The tumour micro environment inside the cells can hear the stress signal, that is adrenalin.

“So what can we do about it?” Erica Sloan asked, before she answered:

“Treating with beta blockers. Blocking neural signalling prevents cancer progression. It also has an effect on immunotherapies.”

Erica Sloan is the group leader for the Cancer & Neural-Immune Research Laboratory in Monash University, Australia. She gave an introduction to the effect of neural signalling on tumour cells during the NLSDays in Stockholm 2018.

“Could stress be responsible for non responders?”, the moderator Gaspar Taroncher-Oldenburg from Nature Publishing Group asked her in the panel. 

“Absolutely, neural signalling can be responsible for this. And the exciting thing with data sharing here is that it can allow us to see and understand the rest of the patients’ biology. We need to look more at the patients’ physiology and not just the tumour biology” she said. 

PCI Biotech is initiating a scientific collaboration with Bavarian Nordic to boost their cancer treatment technology. Image: Shutterstock.

PCI Biotech with new research collaboration

PCI Biotech is initiating a scientific collaboration with Bavarian Nordic to boost their cancer treatment technology.

Oslo Cancer Cluster member PCI Biotech has announced that it is initiating a preclinical research collaboration with Bavarian Nordic, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical corporation focused on developing state-of-the-art cancer immunotherapies and vaccines for infectious diseases.

The two collaborators will be exploring synergies between their two technologies to further enhance the effect of treatments of cancer and infectious diseases.

Exploring possibilities
In brief, the collaborators will evaluate technology compatibility and synergy based on in vivo studies. The companies will evaluate results achieved from this research collaboration and then explore the potential for a further partnership.

CEO of PCI Biotech Per Walday says this regarding this fresh collaboration:

— I’m very pleased to announce another research agreement with a key player within the field of immunotherapies, which is the second collaboration initiated this year. We believe that the PCI technology has the potential to play a role in the realization of several new therapeutic treatments, and we look forward to exploring synergies with Bavarian Nordic’s unique and innovative technologies

Helsepolitikere og helsetopper fikk lov til å drømme i Arendal. Her sitter Karita Bekkemellem (Legemiddelindustrien), Sveinung Stensland (Høyre), Ruth Grung (Arbeiderpartiet) og Kirsten Haugland (Kreftforeningen).

Fremtidens kreftbehandling i Arendal

Picture of group discussing during Arendalsuka.

Gikk du glipp av frokostmøtet vårt i Arendal? Her kan du få det med deg likevel!

Fremtidens kreftbehandling handler om helsedata, persontilpasset medisin, kreftvaksiner og ambisiøse forskere og pådrivere. 

Noen av disse pådriverne kunne du se og høre under vårt frokostmøte i Arendal 15. August 2018. Møteserien “Fremtidens kreftbehandling” er et samarbeid mellom Kreftforeningen, MSD (Norge), Legemiddelindustrien, AstraZeneca, Janssen og Oslo Cancer Cluster. 

 

 

De ambisiøse forskerne kommer fra MetAction, det eneste studiet gjennomført i Norge som bruker en bredspektret prøve av arvematerialet i kreftsvulsten for å avgjøre hva slags behandling hver pasient bør få. Det er virkelig persontilpasset behandling.

— Vi har behandlet pasienter med spredningssvulst. Vi har tatt en prøve og sekvensert DNA i kreftsvulsten. Vi har sett på alle genene som vi i dag vet at er viktig for kreftutvikling, sier Gunhild M. Mælandsmo, biolog ved Oslo Universitetssykehus.

Det er en komplisert infrastruktur i denne behandlingen, og mange eksperter er involvert, før onkologer kan komme fram til hva slag persontilpasset behandling pasienten skal få. MetAction har rett og slett bygget opp en infrastruktur for ekspertene der de kan bruke hverandres kompetanse for å gjøre et tilpasset behandlingsvalg.

Pasientene har hatt nytte av dette. 6 av 26 pasienter hadde effekt av behandlingen og 2 hadde langvarig effekt og er nå tilbake i jobb. Dette er pasienter som var i et stadium av kreft der de var helt uten andre alternativer.

Etter 26 pasienter tok pengene i forskningsprosjektet slutt.

Forskerne og kreftlegene vet fortsatt ikke om de får penger til å fortsette.

— Dette er teknologi som finnes i dag. Vi har vist at vi kan gjøre dette i dag på sykehuset. Helsepolitikerne må ta beslutningen om at dette skal bli tilgjengelig for vanlige kreftpasienter, presiserer kreftkirurg Kjersti Flatmark.

Du kan lese mer om Metaction og se dem in action under Cancer Crosslinks i januar 2018 i denne saken (på engelsk)

Du kan høre hva helsepolitikerne Sveinung Stensland fra Høyre og Ruth Grung fra Arbeiderpartiet har å si til dette i videoen over, i samtale med Karita Bekkemellem fra Legemiddelindustrien og Kirsten Haugland fra Kreftforeningen.

Der vil du også kunne lytte til Giske Ursin fra Kreftregisteret og Jonas Einarsson fra Radforsk i samtale om verdiene i norske helsedata og helseregistre, og norske firmaer som utvikler fremtidens kreftbehandling.