A peak into our member OncoInvent's laboratories, where the company is developing novel cancer treatments. Photo: OncoInvent

Clinical studies – important for Norwegian companies

OncoInvent

Together with our member Inven2, we wish to highlight the importance of facilitating clinical studies in Norway – in order to build a strong health industry and provide cancer patients with access to new, innovative treatments.

Read the original version of this article in Norwegian on Inven2’s website.

Inven2 handles agreements for clinical studies on behalf of the Cancer Clinic at Oslo University Hospital for most Norwegian companies that develop cancer treatments.

“This is an important contribution to the Norwegian health industry and shows that we are competing internationally,” said Siri Kolle, VP Clinical Trials at Inven2.

OncoInvent is one of the promising Norwegian cancer companies that run clinical studies at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, a part of Oslo University Hospital. They initiated two Phase I studies in May and June this year, on ovarian and colorectal cancer with progression to the abdominal cavity.

The disease progression to the abdominal cavity is what often kills these patients and there is no effective treatment today.

“The product we have in clinical development is called Radspherin®. Radspherin® is a radiopharmaceutical product. It emits alpha rays that effectively kill cancer cells and is gentle for the patient, since the radiation only reaches a couple of cells in diameter,” said Hélen Johansen Blanco.

Blanco is Head of Clinical Operations at OncoInvent and, as such, she is responsible for the company’s clinical studies. She has more than 20 years of experience with clinical studies from both big pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca and Celgene, and several biotech companies.

OncoInvent is the third of the four companies that serial entrepreneurs Roy Larsen and Øyvind Bruland have initiated. Algeta was the very first one and was sold to the global biopharmaceutical company Bayer in 2013 for the impressive sum of NOK 18 billion.

Read more about OncoInvent below FACTS at the bottom of this article.

Helen Blanco, OncoInvent

Hélen Blanco, Head of Clinical Operations, OncoInvent. Photo: OncoInvent.

 

Close private-public collaboration

The overview from Inven2 shows eight Norwegian companies that are developing cancer treatments and have clinical studies at Oslo University Hospital at the moment. These are Targovax, PCI Biotech, Nordic Nanovector, Ultimovacs, Vaccibody, OncoInvent, BerGenBio and Exact Therapeutics. These companies are also members of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

What the companies have in common is that they are based on cancer research in Norway, either from academic institutions like a university or hospital, or they have been spun out of private companies.

“Oslo University Hospital has the expertise and feasibility to perform these types of complex early phase studies and is competitive internationally. This is an important prerequisite for Norwegian start-ups to be able to test their treatments in Norway,” said Siri Kolle, VP Clinical Trials at Inven2.

Local trials are a part of building a well-functioning ecosystem for the health industry in Norway.

“This also means that Norwegian cancer patients gain access to new and innovative treatments from Norwegian biotech companies long before the treatments reach the market,” said Kolle.

Kolle thinks that giving Norwegian companies the opportunity to test treatments locally should be a significant part of the Action Plan for Clinical Studies, which will be presented by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services before the end of the year.

In addition, some of these companies and other Norwegian pre-clinical stage companies, buy services from Oslo University Hospital.

“These services are important for the companies’ research and development, both in pre-clinical and clinical stage. The services include, among other things, pre-clinical studies, production, analysis and reports,” said Kolle.

Siri Kolle, VP Clinical Trials, Inven2

Siri Kolle, VP Clinical Trials at Inven2. Photo: Inven2/Moment Studio.

 

A professional organisation

Jon Amund Kyte is the Head of the Department for Experimental Cancer Treatment at Oslo University Hospital.

“During the course of 20 years, this has developed into a professional department that can perform high-quality clinical studies on behalf of both Norwegian biotech companies and the global pharmaceutical industry. We have quick start-up and good patient recruitment. Moreover, we emphasise patient security, documentation, and data quality. These elements are essential to perform clinical studies,” said Kyte.

The department consists of three units:

  • The Clinical Cancer Research Unit at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, which is specialized in Phase I/II studies.
  • The unit for clinical study nurses, who support the running of the academic departments. In other words, they support the doctors from the different cancer groups who lead the studies, who are also called main investigators or investigators.
  • The “Clinical Trial Office”, which involves a project coordinator that performs all the administrative work for a clinical study, on behalf of the companies that require support and the investigators. This includes applications to the regional ethics committee, all internal agreements with the different hospital departments, agreements with Inven2, applications to the research council (Forskningsutvalget) at the hospital, etc.

“When we receive a request from a company who want to run a study, we contact an investigator in the relevant cancer group, to see if they can do the study. Then, the company goes to our Clinical Trial Office,” said Kyte.

Kyte said that they want to offer the companies a one-stop-shop. The system they have rigged around clinical studies is comprehensive.

“This rig saves both time and money for the company, which doesn’t need to call many different people at the hospital. At the same time, the responsible doctors, the investigators who will lead the study, are relieved from the administrative burden. It is then easier for the doctors to participate,” said Kyte.

Kyte said they are mindful of keeping their promises to the companies. They will rather decline a study if they can’t deliver all the company’s needs or they can’t recruit enough patients.

“We also offer more services to the small companies that are less experienced with clinical studies and that have less resources than the global companies,” said Kyte.

oncologist jon amund kyte

Jon Amund Kyte is the Head of the Department for Experimental Cancer Treatment at Oslo University Hospital. Photo: Sofia Linden

Norway needs to compete

The fact that OncoInvent can perform studies in Norway is important for the company. But it is not a matter of course. The biotech company is “born global” and the studies they run in Norway need to be on the same level, or better, than the clinical studies they run abroad.

“The following aspects are particularly important for us when we choose which locations to place our clinical studies: the quality of the clinical data, the implementation of the study, that the study is started quickly and that the clinical centre can recruit the number of patients they have promised,” said Blanco.

She is very pleased with the two clinical studies that OncoInvent have ongoing at Oslo University Hospital so far and is happy to place more studies there if this positive experience lasts.

“One of the studies we have on colorectal cancer with progression is at the national centre responsible for treating patients with colorectal cancer that has spread to the abdominal cavity. This is a centre with high recruitment of patients from the entire country and that performs the study at a high level. They have included four patients so far and the first dose level is confirmed safe for the patients. No patients have dropped out of the study after signing the consent forms,” says Blanco.

The last part is an important point. Blanco tells us that they thought some patients would drop out of the study after giving their consent. This is because there are very specific inclusion criteria in all clinical studies, but the patient must first give consent before any testing can be done. This shows that the centre, led by gastro surgeon Stein Larsen, knows the patient group very well, Blanco points out.

“In addition, to have a quick start up the contractual work is essential. The negotiation process with Oslo University Hospital has been relatively quick and simple,” said Blanco.

She still points out that there are some structural challenges with running studies in Norway, such as the lengthy application processes at the Norwegian State Medicinal Agency and the Regional Ethics Committee, compared to other countries, such as Singapore and USA. OncoInvent’s experience is that Norway has been the quickest country to start up studies in so far.

“Compared to my experiences from the global studies that I have been responsible for, Norway has traditionally been relatively high in terms of cost and then we expect high quality data, like they deliver in for example Belgium or Germany. However, cost is not always in proportion to quality,” says Blanco.

image of drug radspherin(r) from oncoinvent

Radspherin® is a radiopharmaceutical product. It emits alpha rays that effectively kill cancer cells and is gentle for the patients, since the radiation only reaches a diameter of a couple of cells. Photo: OncoInvent.

Good at quick recruitment

Vaccibody and OncoInvent are proof that the Department for Experimental Cancer Treatments can start studies quickly.

OncoInvent publicised in May and June 2020 that the two phase I studies had begun with their first patient and Vaccibody advertised in July 2020 that its international phase II study of the DNA-based HPV vaccine in combination with a check point inhibitor from Roche also had begun.

In an opinion piece in the Norwegian medical newspaper Dagens Medisin, Kristina Lindemann, Staff Specialist at the Department of Gynaecologic Cancer and Head of Research Group for Gynaecological Oncology, wrote:

“We think it is great that Oslo University Hospital (OUS) was the first site and began with the first patient in this international study for patients with advanced cervical cancer.”

The reason they are quick at recruiting patients is because the Department for Experimental Cancer Treatments runs all applications and approval processes in parallel.

“We have checked and prepared the staff who will perform the study in advance, so that everything is in place when the company begins the study,” said Kyte.

The department gives their employees in-depth training, besides what has already been covered in the course “Good Clinical Practice” and have internal routines to secure good data quality.

When the clinical studies at Oslo University Hospital were stopped because of the corona pandemic in March, they were quickly up and running again because of the good internal routines.

“We never promise more than we can keep. If we can’t deliver a study, we may lose all future studies from that company or in that cancer type, and we don’t want to risk that. Our good reputation is all we have,” said Kyte.

Big potential for studies

Even if many things work well at the Clinical Trials Unit that Kyte heads up, Kyte wishes that clinical studies were a part of a more streamlined system at Norwegian hospitals.

“Clinical studies should be an integrated part of ordinary patient treatment, with dedicated specialists who have time set aside to work with clinical studies. Now, we need to obtain the price and capacity from each department of the hospital for the services we need for the studies. This process is both time-consuming and risky. If one department says no, then we must decline the study and if we are one investigator short, then the study cannot be run,” Kyte explains.

Kyte thinks that the streamlining of the processes should be assigned through documentation from the Ministry of Health and Care Services to the hospitals. This means that when the button “clinical studies” is pushed, it is just as binding for the hospital to complete as any other patient treatment.

“We run about 70 clinical studies at our hospital, this includes both industry studies and academic studies, but we have a much larger potential than this. We are a part of a ‘Comprehensive Cancer Center’ and have access to many cancer patients and competent cancer researchers at the hospital. We are very motivated to drive the interaction between research, business development and patients, that clinical studies represent,” said Kyte.

FACT

OncoInvent

  • OncoInvent was established ten years ago by serial entrepreneurs Roy Larsen and Øyvind Bruland. They are also behind cancer companies Algeta, Nordic Nanovector and newly established Nucligen. Tina Bønsdorff, Head of Research in OncoInvent, and Thóra Jónasdottir, board member in OncoInvent, also helped to establish the company in 2010.
  • Radspherin® is the main product from OncoInvent and is a radiopharmaceutical. This means it is a radioactive pharmaceutical that can kill cancer cells. Radspherin® consists of calcium carbonate particles marked with the radioactive isotope Radium-224, which is an alpha-emitting particle.
  • OncoInvent is in clinical development, with two phase I studies in Norway for the treatment of cancer metastasis in the abdominal cavity, from ovarian and colorectal cancer.
  • The radiation that Radspherin® emits is short and can therefore kill the cancer cells in the abdominal cavity more effectively without harming other parts of the body.
  • OncoInvent has their own production facilities for Radspherin® at their headquarters in Nydalen in Oslo, which is unusual for a small biotech company.
  • The company consists of almost 30 employees as of the end of this year.

Read more at OncoInvent’s official website

 

The Department for Experimental Cancer Treatment and Research Support

  • The main duty of the department is to contribute to more and better patient-focused research by facilitating for and implementing clinical studies.
  • It is led by Jon Amund Kyte.
  • It is a part of the Department for Cancer Treatment at Oslo University Hospital.
  • It consists of about 56 people connected with the department.
  • It runs about 70 clinical studies today, both from industry and academia.
  • It has studies in medical treatments, gene therapy, cancer vaccines, palliative treatments, radiation therapy, surgery and diagnostic procedures.
  • Read more about the work in the department in this interview with Jon Amund Kyte from Pharma Boardroom.

 

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Einar Martin Aandahl teamed up with engineers to develop the software tool PRJCTS, which simplifies research collaboration and data sharing. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

Accelerating cancer research with data sharing

A new Norwegian technology enables cancer researchers to share data across research groups, institutions and country borders in order to faster reach new discoveries.

This is the story about a group of Norwegian researchers who got tired of the difficulties when collaborating across different hospitals. They decided to develop their own digital platform where research data can simply and safely be uploaded, shared and analysed across the globe.

Oslo University Hospital has now signed on to use the solution, called PRJCTS, to conduct nationwide clinical research on patients with the coronavirus.

The unique thing about the Norwegian start-up Ledidi is that the team consists of both doctors and engineers. Einar Martin Aandahl, CEO of Ledidi, is a surgeon with many years of research experience from Norway and the USA.

“We have done research for over 25 years, including in molecular biology, oncology and cancer surgery,” Aandahl explains. “We saw how difficult it was to collaborate on data and therefore we developed the software tool we needed.”

Today, researchers often work in several computer programs and must regularly import or export data. This is both time-consuming and leads to problems concerning data security. Moreover, statistical tools are slow and require previous training.

“We have brought together all the computer programmes that the researchers need into one software solution with a simple user interface,” Aandahl said. “The bridge between medicine and technology has made this possible.”

Aandahl thinks PRJCTS will simplify workflow and improve data security. The data will be kept in a cloud solution, which means it is always accessible from wherever researchers are located.

“This program has the potential to revolutionize how clinical research is conducted,” Aandahl said.

Since the majority of clinical cancer research today is done via multicentre international studies, it requires that different institutions can work together and share data securely. Moreover, cancer researchers often depend on large data sets and there is no limit to the scale of the project when using a cloud-based solution.

“The analysis tool is perfect for cancer research. It can perform many complicated analyses in a very short time frame,” Aandahl explained. ”The user interface is designed to help researchers see the larger patterns in the data.”

With the advent of personalized medicine, it is important for cancer researchers to easily identify subgroups in large data sets to tailor treatments for individual cancer patients.

Several prominent investors from the Norwegian finance milieu have already backed Ledidi. For example, Radforsk, the evergreen investment fund dedicated to oncology, recently pledged their support for the company.

“They have developed a product that will be extremely useful for researchers, clinicians and companies. We are happy to support them!” said Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk.

The agreement with Oslo University Hospital on covid-19 studies means a lot for Ledidi, who are proud that PRJCTS was approved of the hospital’s thorough regulations on data security and data privacy. Now, other clinical research environments have expressed interest in acquiring PRJCTS and Aandahl hopes it will help many more researchers worldwide.

“Our goal is that researchers can collect, analyse and share data faster, so that research can be accelerated and new treatments can be identified quicker,” Aandahl said.

Welcome first-year students

This article was first published in Norwegian on our School Collaboration website.

The school collaboration days were a little bit different this year, but we are still incredibly happy to see all the Ullern students back at school.

The corona pandemic dampened the spirit of the school collaboration days this year. This is usually when the first-year students at Ullern Upper Secondary School get to visit the different institutions and companies that are located in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park together with the school. However, the traditional lecture with Jónas Einarsson, one of the founding fathers of the Innovation Park, was still held.

Jónas Einarsson is the CEO of Radforsk, an early stage evergreen fund that invests in and develops cancer companies. The fund is also behind Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, which houses Ullern Upper Secondary School.

“I will tell you a little about the history behind the Norwegian Radium Hospital, cancer and cancer treatments, but first I have to talk a little about Covid-19 and the pandemic that we are all in the middle of,” Einarsson began his speech for the first-year students.

He continued by explaining that a corona vaccine may be available in 2021, but that it will take time before everyone receives the vaccine and for the whole population to gain immunity so that everything can go back to normal again.

“This has a big effect on young people in particular, but you are very smart. Just make sure to stay away from rave parties in caves,” Einarsson said and the students smiled.

Then, Einarsson told the story of how modern cancer treatment came into being when Marie Curie discovered the potential of radium to destroy cancer tumours, and how the Norwegian doctors Heyerdahl and Huitfeldt worked tirelessly for almost 20 years to establish the Norwegian Radium Hospital, which opened in 1932. Right next to it, Ullern Upper Secondary had recently opened its doors, so the school and the hospital have a long history as neighbours.

“In 2015, we opened Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and the neighbourhood became even closer. The school collaboration project between the school and the members of Oslo Cancer Cluster was established already in 2009, when we knew that we would move in together,” Einarsson said.

The rest, as they say, is history, but the corona pandemic has put a damper on the collaboration. Due to the current disease prevention in place, the usual placements have been cancelled and the close collaboration between students and researchers needs to be adapted. Exactly how this will take shape during the autumn of 2020, no one knows yet, but lectures and video conferences will serve as replacements.

Read more about what the school’s first-years usually do during the Collaboration Days.

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Photo: The Embassy of Denmark in Norway

Ministers meet at Oslo Cancer Cluster

Danish Foreign Minister meets with Norwegian Trade Minister at Oslo Cancer Cluster

The corona pandemic and international trade were on the top of the agenda when the Foreign Minister of Denmark Jeppe Kofod met with the Minister for Trade, Industry and Fisheries of Norway Iselin Nybø at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park.

Norway and Denmark are close friends and allies, and the current corona situation has made conversations between Nordic colleagues more valuable than ever.

Export, international trade and investments will be crucial to overcoming the challenges the corona pandemic has brought to Nordic economies.

These pressing issues were discussed when the two ministers from Denmark and Norway met at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park on 13 August 2020.

Ministers Nybø and Kofod

Ministers Nybø and Kofod discussed how to increase export from and attract international investments to the Nordic countries. Photo: The Embassy of Denmark in Norway

The starting point of the meeting was how many companies in the health industry need access to international markets and value chains to grow.

The Norwegian government are preparing an Export Action Plan. It will include several measures to help Norwegian industry come through the corona crisis.

“In the development of the Export Action Plan, the government is collaborating with both industry and financial organisations. We want to gain as much knowledge as possible about where the challenges lie and evaluate which measures are most effective,” Nybø said in a press release from the Department of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.

The Embassy of Denmark in Norway released the following statement after the meeting:

“It is important to attract foreign investments and there is a big potential in Nordic collaboration within the life science sector, since Denmark and Norway have complementary competencies in this field.”

Ketil Widerberg, general manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster, was happy to facilitate the visit and to give input to the ministers on how international collaboration helps the development of cancer treatments:

“Denmark and Norway collaborate on important research areas, including cancer. Our countries have national health data that attract international recognition. Our countries also collaborate on purchasing of developed drugs.

“The opportunity now is the collaboration on how to use our health data and collaborative efforts to better and faster approve new innovative treatments.

“This could reduce development time from 10 to 5 years, and make the Nordics a destination for health innovation.”

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Gert W. Munthe, Chairman of the Board, and Øystein Rekdal, PhD, CEO of Lytix Biopharma. Photo: Håvar Haug

Lytix Biopharma signs licensing agreement

Our member Lytix Biopharma has entered into a milestone agreement with Verrica Pharmaceuticals to license the company’s lead drug candidate against skin cancer.

The Norwegian start-up Lytix Biopharma from Tromsø has reached a new milestone. The company has licensed its lead drug candidate LTX-315 against skin cancer to the dermatology therapeutics company Verrica Pharmaceuticals. Verrica Pharmaceuticals will develop and commercialize LTX-315 for dermatologic oncology indications.

The drug is a first-in-class oncolytic peptide-based immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that mobilises the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Peptides are short chains of between two and fifty amino acids that can have many different sources or functions. Peptides hold great potential for both cancer therapy and diagnostics, through the development of anticancer peptides, use of peptides for drug delivery, and cancer targeting.

Clinical studies have shown that the drug LTX-315 from Lytix Biopharma has the ability to kill human cancer cells and induce a specific anti-cancer immune response when injected locally into tumours.

“We are pleased to enter into this collaboration with Verrica, which has significant expertise within the field of dermatology” said Øystein Rekdal, CEO of Lytix Biopharma. “Our lead drug candidate, LTX-315, has shown very promising efficacy and safety signals in cancer patients during Phase I/II studies and we are excited that this partnership with Verrica will expand the applications for LTX-315”

The agreement entitles Lytix Biopharma to up-front payment, contingent regulatory milestones based on achievement of specified development goals, and sales milestones, with aggregate payments of more than $110M, as well as tiered royalty payments in the double-digit teens once Verrica successfully commercializes LTX-315 in dermatologic oncology indications.

Lytix Biopharma and Oslo Cancer Cluster

Lytix Biopharma has been a part of the innovation environment in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park since the building opened in 2015, utilising both offices and laboratory for research and development.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has offered the company its services in both private and shared laboratory spaces. In addition, Lytix Biopharma has been active in the animal laboratories at The Norwegian Radium Hospital (a part of Oslo University Hospital), which is located right next to the Incubator.

The researchers in Lytix Biopharma have gained their PhDs in the Incubator, in collaboration with its innovation environment. One of the company’s former researchers is now the laboratory manager in the Incubator.

“This shows how the innovation environments enrich one another in a positive sense, by sharing access to different services and thanks to the power of our geographic location,” said Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

Lytix Biopharma recently moved out of the Incubator after finishing their main project earlier this year and remains a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator is financed by SIVA, the Norwegian national infrastructure for innovation, consisting of incubators, business gardens, catapult centres, innovation enterprises, innovation centres and industrial real estate.

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Siri Lill Mannes was host for the meeting on more comprehensive cancer care in Norway, looking at both diagnostics, treatments and exercise plans.

A digital bootcamp for better cancer care

Digital bootcamp for better cancer care

Molecular diagnostics, clinical studies and exercise plans for cancer patients were three key topics raised in last week’s event.

We teamed up with Aktiv mot Kreft, Merck Norway and GSK Norway to put a spotlight on innovative cancer treatments in Norway.

Due to corona restrictions, we transformed this event (originally planned for Arendalsuka) into a digital bootcamp with short training intervals between each panel. This was livestreamed from Pusterommet at Akershus University Hospital on Wednesday 12 August 2020 at 5:00 pm.

The meeting consisted of three parts with different perspectives: diagnostics, treatments and exercise plans.

View the entire meeting via Facebook here or watch it via our YouTube channel below:

 

Warming-up to genetic testing

The warm-up session involved a discussion on how improved diagnostics can help doctors determine the best treatment for each individual patient.

Dr. Andreas Stensvold, Head of the Cancer Department at Sykehuset Østfold, talked about how he has used off-label treatments to help some of his patients.

One example is Kjetil Nerland who had already received the traditional treatment methods: surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but found they did not work for him over longer periods of time.

After going through genetic testing and detailed analysis of the tumour cells, Stensvold could offer Nerland an off-label treatment. The medicines had already been approved for a different cancer type.

“It’s not fun to have cancer, but it is fun to live longer and to not have to go through chemotherapy again,” Nerland said.

Jan Frich, vice administrative director for the South-Eastern Regional Health Authority, explained they are setting up the infrastructure for advanced molecular diagnostics.

“We need to build up the diagnostics – that is the basis for personalized medicine,” Frich said.

Professor Jan Helge Solbakk from The Centre for Medical Ethics at the University of Oslo was however critical of how little is being done to approve new cancer treatments and implement personalized medicine in Norway.

“Norwegian authorities are a little bit too scared of personalized medicine. When there is a big breakthrough or when we see great effect in one patient, they worry about the cost,” Solbakk said.

 

High-intensive discussions on clinical studies

The next panel discussed: How can Norway keep up with other countries on implementing precision medicine?

Professor Kjetil Taskén, Director of the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital, highlighted three things: building infrastructure for molecular cancer diagnostics, attracting more clinical studies that utilise molecular diagnostics and implementing this in regular clinical practice.

The initiative IMPRESS Norway works towards a public-private collaboration, with public financing to do a large clinical study in collaboration with several private companies. They will follow a set of guidelines to find out which cancer treatment is best for which patient.

“I think the dialogue between governmental institutions and private companies has been good so far. We are aiming to get a shift towards more public-private collaborations,” Taskén said.

The clinical study IMPRESS Norway is modelled on studies done in the USA and Netherlands. Results from the ongoing Dutch study show that if enough patients and companies are involved, it is possible to find one extra treatment option for 50% of the patients by using molecular diagnostics.

The pharmaceutical industry agrees that this is an important step towards precision medicine.

“It should be a political goal that clinical studies become part of ordinary cancer patient treatment, so that all patients who have been through treatment are offered a place in a clinical study,” Steinar Thoresen, Head of Oncology and Strategy, Merck Nordics and Netherlands, said.

Frøydis Høyem, State Secretary at the Ministry for Health and Care Services, was positive about more public-private collaboration on cancer care.

“The Norwegian government genuinely cares about cancer patients and wants to land a public-private collaboration. We need to come together, discuss this more and agree on how to take it further,” Høyem said.

 

Relaxing perspectives on exercise

How do we prepare the patient to be in the best possible shape to handle a cancer treatment? This was the key question in the last panel of the meeting.

A new initiative at Akershus University Hospital has put educating patients about coping with cancer, along with exercise and diet plans, at the forefront for all their treatments.

The results?

“We have higher patient satisfaction. They experience a higher degree of involvement, shorter waiting times and less complications,” Dr. Geir Arne Larsen, Head of Department for General and Digestive Surgery at Akershus University Hospital, said.

“It is neither high tech medicine nor resource demanding. In total, we use less resources on these patients, so the hospital’s capacity for intensive care, surgery and hospital beds can be used for other patients,” Larsen continued.

Hanne Garde is one of the patients who has been involved. She is happy she could take part in an individualised plan for diet, exercise and managing the disease, which made all the difference for her during treatment and recovery.

“It was perfect for me personally to be able to take an active role in my own treatment,” Garde said.

Yngvar Andersen, Ambassador for Aktiv mot kreft and training enthusiast, led all the exercise intervals and finished the meeting with some exercises for all the participants.

“I have seen how meaningful exercise is for many cancer patients. Life might not become longer, but it becomes a little bit better,” Andersen said.

 

Meeting participants:

  • Siri Lill Mannes, host
  • Frøydis Høyem, State Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Care Services
  • Jan Frich, vice administrative director at the Norwegian South-Eastern Regional Health Authority
  • Andreas Stensvold, oncologist and Head of the Cancer Department at Sykehuset Østfold
  • Jan Helge Solbakk, professor at the Centre for Medical Ethics at the University of Oslo
  • Kjetil Taskén, Director of the Insitute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital
  • Steinar Thoresen, Head of Oncology and Strategy, Merck Nordics and Netherlands
  • Geir Arne Larsen, Head of Department for General and Digestive Surgery at Akershus University Hospital
  • Yngvar Andersen, Ambassador for Aktiv mot kreft and training enthusiast

 

Thank you to all participants and organising partners for making this meeting possible!

 

 

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Eivind Lysheim was inspired to study medical technology after a placement at Oslo University Hospital, arranged by Oslo Cancer Cluster in collaboration with Ullern Upper Secondary School.

Studying medtech with cancer patients at heart

Eivind Lysheim

Former Ullern student Eivind Lysheim has been inspired to make a difference for cancer patients

Eivind Lysheim had decided to study economics at university, until a work placement at the Norwegian Radium Hospital caught his interest in 2016, during his last year at Ullern Upper Secondary School.

The placement was arranged by Oslo Cancer Cluster and took place in the Department of Medical Physics. For an entire week Eivind was mentored by Professor Taran Paulsen Hellebust and her co-workers on medical imaging and how radiotherapy is used to treat cancer patients. The Ullern student learnt how to use the machines and how to create a theoretical treatment plan for a former patient.

“I have always been interested in the natural sciences. I felt that the combination of technology and medicine was extremely interesting. It is fascinating how you can use something that is perceived as deadly – such as gamma radiation, x-rays or high energy particles – and cure someone. When I saw the high-tech machines at the hospital, I got a little bit carried away,” Eivind said with a smile.

Eivind immediately changed his application from economics to the mathematics and physics programme with specialisation in biophysics and medical technology at NTNU in Trondheim.

Four years later, Eivind has one year left of his master’s degree and is still intent on working on technology that can improve the lives of cancer patients.

“Cancer can happen to anyone and almost everyone in Norway knows someone who has been affected by it. It is important that we develop the very best treatments for the people who get ill,” Eivind said.

Eivind got in touch with Bente Prestegård, project manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster, who helped him find a summer internship with our member Kongsberg Beam Technology. The company recently acquired funding to develop control systems for proton therapy machines.

“Among medtech students in Norway, proton therapy is probably the most popular area to work in. Everyone dreams about getting a job in this field. This internship has really been like hitting the jackpot for me,” Eivind said.

Kongsberg Beam Technology is developing a system called MAMA-K, which is short for Multi‑Array Multi-Axis Cancer Combat Machine. The machine treats the tumour with a number of simultaneous proton beams and is especially adapted for more mobile tumours, and it can be added to both existing and new proton machines.

Eivind has spent the summer doing research in the offices belonging to Semcon, who is one of Kongsberg Beam Technology’s partners.

Norway is in the process of building its first two proton centres, at Oslo University Hospital and at Haukeland University Hospital. Many medtech students are eager to work at these centres to develop cancer treatments. Moreover, the technology used in proton machines is an intriguing area of research constantly in development, which makes it highly attractive for new students.

“If I can work with proton therapy, I can look forward to a very exciting and varied career, because the field is always changing and you have to continually learn new things,” Eivind said.

Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, leading a debate on health data during EHiN 2019. Photo: Ard Jongsma / Still Words Photography

The IT-revolution in oncology

This article was first published in Teknisk Ukeblad in Norwegian on 23 June 2020. Scroll down for a version in Norwegian.

EHiN, E-Health in Norway, is Norway’s largest conference on the digitalization of the health sector. Save the date 10-11 November 2020!

“At EHiN you will meet the key players of the health sector, politicians and decision-makers,” said Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

EHiN has proven to be an important arena to gather the industry, the public sector and the research environment around the digitalization of the health sector.

“During two days, we will learn from one another and share knowledge about technological solutions to benefit the health service and individual patients. This creates a basis for further collaboration,” Widerberg said.

Oslo Cancer Cluster is a non-profit member organization that connects public and private key players in cancer research and a Norwegian Centre of Expertise since 2009. Oslo Cancer Cluster is a collaboration partner in EHiN.

Artificial intelligence changes cancer treatments

Digitalisation is a central area in cancer research and the advent of precision medicine demands that different academic disciplines work closely together. Using artificial intelligence will be important to develop new treatments.

“Artificial intelligence will change how we treat cancer. It is about understanding cancer. The same way that a microscope can show us what cells look like, AI can help us to discover patterns we never would have seen otherwise.

“This makes it possible to give patients personalized treatments because we can identify how the patient will react to the treatment. Eventually, modern machine learning systems will make the treatments even better.

“The goal is to give the right treatment to the right patient at the right time,” Widerberg explained.

The IT-revolution in the oncology field is also of great interest to the tech industry. It is about handling enormous amounts of health data through storage, analysis, machine learning, pattern detection and secure connections between different data sources.

“Personalized medicine, genetics and the use of health data is quickly developing into one of the most important areas in digital health.”
Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

“EHiN wishes in collaboration with Oslo Cancer Cluster to build Norway as an important international hub in the area of e-health,” Widerberg said.

The programme for EHiN 2020 is currently under development. Information about the venue and ticket sales will be announced at a later date. Please visit the official EHiN website for updates on how corona affects EHiN 2020.

 


IT-REVOLUSJON PÅ ONKOLOGIFELTET

EHiN, EHelse i Norge, er Norges største konferanse om digitalisering i helsesektoren. – Merk deg datoene 10. og 11. november allerede nå.

På EHiN møter du de fremste aktørene i helsesektoren, politikere og beslutningstakere, sier Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster.
EHiN har vist seg å være en viktig arena for å samle næringsliv, offentlig sektor og forskning rundt digitalisering av helsesektoren.

– I to dager i  skal vi lære av hverandre og dele kunnskap om teknologiløsninger til det beste for helsevesen og enkeltpasienter. Det skaper grobunn for videre samarbeid, poengterer Widerberg.

Han forteller at Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) er en non-profit medlemsorganisasjon som samler offentlige og private aktører innen kreftforskning, og et Norwegian Centre of Expertise. OCC er samarbeidspartner i EHiN.

Presisjonsmedisin

Presisjonsmedisin krever ifølge Widerberg at forskjellige fag-grener jobber tett sammen, og digitalisering er et sentralt område innenfor kreft. Han trekker frem betydningen av kunstig intelligens (AI).

– AI vil endre kreftbehandlingen. Det handler om å forstå kreften. På samme måte som mikroskopet tar oss helt ned på cellenivå, vil AI hjelpe oss til å se et mønster vi aldri ellers ville oppdaget. Dette gjør det mulig å gi pasienter individbasert behandling – nettopp fordi vi kan se et mønster på hvordan pasienten reagerer på behandlingen. Etter hvert vil moderne selvlærende datasystemer gjøre behandlingsmetodene bedre.
Målet er å gi den rette behandlingen til den rette pasienten til rett tid, forklarer Widerberg.

IT-revolusjonen på onkologifeltet har også stor interesse for IT-bransjen. Det handler blant annet om å håndtere enorme mengder helsedata gjennom lagring, analyse, maskinlæring, mønstergjenkjenning og sikker kobling av forskjellige datakilder.

– Persontilpasset medisin, genetikk og bruk av helsedata utvikler seg snart til et av de viktigste områdene innen digital helse, sier Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster.

– EHiN ønsker i samarbeid med OCC å bygge Norge som en viktig internasjonal hub på området e-helse, avslutter Widerberg.

Følg med på ehin.no hvordan koronaviruset påvirker EHiN 2020.

Christine Wergeland Sørbye, CEO of Oslo Science City, is happy to welcome Oslo Cancer Cluster as a member of the new innovation district. Photo: Oslo Science City

Oslo Cancer Cluster becomes a member of Oslo Science City

How can we solve societal challenges, such as cancer, by creating a power centre for innovation in Oslo? This is the key question Oslo Science City – the first innovation district in Norway – hopes to answer.

The ambition of Oslo Science City is to become a world leading innovation district that contributes to research excellence, jobs creation, the green shift and sustainable economic development.

“We intend to develop a vibrant city area where people meet to innovate and explore what we still don’t understand,” said Christine Wergeland Sørbye, CEO of Oslo Science City.

In order to achieve this, Oslo Science City’s strategy is to facilitate cooperation between leading research groups, students, businesses and the public sector. Key actors in the district, including the City of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital and the University of Oslo, are now working together to facilitate the development of the area.

“We will develop a powerhouse for innovation, research and business, and a good place to live,” said Wergeland Sørbye.

Oslo Cancer Cluster joined Oslo Science City in June 2020 to contribute to boosting innovation in this knowledge-intensive area.

”Innovation thrives where there are hard problems that need to be solved,” said Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

“Cancer is one of the major societal challenges we face today. For over a decade, Oslo Cancer Cluster has worked tirelessly to enable researchers and investors, private companies and public hospitals to work closer together to solve this challenge. We have succeeded in some first steps, now is the time to get to the next level. Utilizing the potential in immunology and digitalisation with Oslo Science City will be key to achieve this.”

Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder, OCC

Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, sees the potential of connecting immunology and digitalisation in the future innovation district. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster / Stig Jarnes

Wergeland Sørbye is happy to welcome Oslo Cancer Cluster as an active partner in developing Oslo Science City:

“Oslo Cancer Cluster has unique competencies and a long track record, and we are looking forward to learn from you! Together with the University of Oslo, SINTEF, Oslo University Hospital, the City of Oslo and our other members, Oslo Cancer Cluster will play an important role in realizing the potential for innovation, new jobs and value creation. It is important, and it will be fun!”

Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, the Oslo University Hospital research building and Norwegian Radium Hospital are located in the new innovation district Oslo Science City.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, the Oslo University Hospital research building and Norwegian Radium Hospital are located in the new innovation district Oslo Science City. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster / Christian Tandberg

A vibrant area to live, work, play

There are many innovation districts around the world, yet there is no fixed recipe for how successful innovation districts are developed.

“Developing such an area could be described more as an art than science.” Wergeland Sørbye said.

“However, research highlights the need for certain key functions. For example, you need strong anchor institutions that attract other actors, such as a university or university hospital, and you need to facilitate the cooperation based on trust between the different organizations and stakeholders in the area. Many do this by establishing a joint membership organization, which is what we did with Oslo Science City.”

Furthermore, it is essential to develop a multifunctional area with a critical mass of knowledge-intensive businesses. The ideal innovation district is a vibrant place where people can “live, work and play”, with services and cultural functions. It must also be easy to move around in the area, on foot, bike or public transportation.

“A key lesson from other innovation districts is the importance of adapting to the local context,” Wergeland Sørbye said.

However, no one has previously developed innovation districts in Norway. This makes it valuable to learn from international examples. Some innovation districts that have provided inspiration in the endeavour to develop Oslo Science City are Stockholm Science City, Copenhagen Science City, White City in London and Kendal Square in Boston.

Please follow the Oslo Science City official website for further updates on the development of the innovation district.

New member: Hemispherian

Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

In this article series, we will introduce the new members of our oncology cluster.

Our newest member Hemispherian is developing a better treatment option for patients with aggressive brain cancer.

Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most aggressive types of cancer that begins within the brain. Current treatment options are limited to surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the median overall survival after diagnosis is only 15 months and is highly dependent on the success of the surgery.

A Norwegian company called Hemispherian is advancing a new method to treat glioblastoma multiforme. The molecules the company is developing are called GLIX1 and GLIX5. They target a mechanism that is unique to cancer cells and does not affect normal healthy cells. The molecules are highly toxic to cancer cells and have minimal side effects.

We talked to Adam Robertson, Chief Scientific Officer in Hemispherian, to find out more about the company and the research.

How is Hemispherian involved in health and cancer?

“We are advancing first-in-class therapeutics for the indication with the greatest unmet need in oncology — glioblastoma multiforme. Patients diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme have dismal outcomes. Overall survival is measured in months with quality of life deteriorating rapidly. It is Hemispherian’s mission to provide superior treatment options.” Adam Robertson, Chief Scientific Officer, Hemispherian.

Why did Hemispherian become a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“As a company focusing on developing cancer treatments Oslo Cancer Cluster is a natural fit for us. We are interested in Oslo Cancer Cluster’s extensive experience in the field and hope to benefit from advice and to make valuable contacts through Oslo Cancer Cluster’s network.” Adam Robertson, Chief Scientific Officer, Hemispherian.