Anette Weyergang demonstrated the PCI technology to the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg during her visit to Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park.

Radforsk to invest NOK 4.5 million in cancer research

Radforsk, the Radium Hospital Research Foundation, a partner of Oslo Cancer Cluster, is awarding several million Norwegian kroner to new research that fights cancer with light.

Radforsk is an evergreen investor focusing on companies that develop cancer treatment. Since its inception in 1986, Radforsk has allocated NOK 200 million of its profit back into cancer research at Oslo University Hospital. This year, four researchers will be awarded a total of NOK 4.5 million. One of them is Anette Weyergang, who will receive NOK 3.75 million over a three-year period.

“I’m so happy for this grant. As researchers, we have to find funding for our own projects. I didn’t have any funding for the project I have now applied and been granted funds for,” says Anette Weyergang.

Anette Weyergang is one of the researchers who has received funding from Radforsk.

Anette Weyergang is a project group manager and senior researcher in a research group led by Kristian Berg. The group conducts research in the field of photodynamic therapy (PDT) and photochemical internalisation (PCI). Radforsk’s portfolio company and Oslo Cancer Cluster member PCI Biotech is based on this group’s research.

What is PDT / PCI? Cancer research in the field of photodynamic therapy and photochemical internalisation studies the use of light in direct cancer treatment in combination with drugs, or to deliver drugs that can treat cancer cells or organs affected by cancer.

 

Weyergang is the first researcher ever to receive several million kroner over the course of several years from Radforsk.

“We have donated a total of NOK 200 million to cancer research at Oslo University Hospital, of which NOK 25 million have gone to research in PDT/PCI. We have previously awarded smaller amounts to several researchers, but we now want to use some of our funds to focus on projects we believe in,” says Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk.

By the deadline on 15 February 2019, Radforsk received a total of eight applications, which were then assessed by external experts.

 

The new research focuses on how to use light to release the cancer drugs more efficiently inside the cancer cells.

 

New use of PCI technology

PCI is a technology for delivering drugs and other molecules into the cancer cells and then releasing them by means of light. This allows for a targeted cancer treatment with fewer side effects for patients.

Weyergang will use the funds from Radforsk to research whether PCI technology can be used to make targeted cancer treatment even more precise.

“The project aims to find a method for delivering antibodies to cancer cells using PCI technology. This has never been done before, and if we succeed, it can open up brand new possibilities for using this technology,” says Weyergang.

Initially, she will focus on glioblastoma, which is the most serious form of brain cancer. Glioblastoma is resistant to both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and has a very high mortality rate.

“This is translational research, so human trials are still a long way off. We will now use both glioblastoma cell lines and animal experimentation to test our hypothesis. We do this to establish what is called a “proof of concept”, which we need to move on to clinical testing,” says Weyergang.

 

The other researchers who have received funding for PDT/PCI research from Radforsk in 2019 are:

  • Kristian Berg and Henry Hirschberg Beckman: NOK 207,500
  • Qian Peng: NOK 300,000
  • Mpuldy Sioud: NOK 300,000

 

What is Radforsk?

  • Since its formation in 1986, Radforsk has generated NOK 600 million in fund assets and channelled NOK 200 million to cancer research, based on a loan of NOK 1 million in equity back in 1986.
  • During this period, NOK 200 million have found its way back to the researchers whose ideas Radforsk has helped to commercialise.
  • NOK 25 million have gone to research in photodynamic therapy (PDT) and photochemical internalisation (PCI). In total, NOK 40 million will be awarded to this research.

 

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Positive results on bile duct cancer from PCI Biotech

The PCI Biotech stock went straight up on the Norwegian Stock Exchange after successful results from the first dose cohort in the phase I/II study of Amphinex in combination with the cytotoxic agent gemcitabine in patients with inoperable bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). No safety concerns were observed at this dose level.

PCI Biotech have previously shown promising results from phase I/II on head- and neck cancer using the same technology as in this phase I study on bile duct cancer, where the three first patients now has been treated.

Targeted therapy
The PCI-technology was developed at the Norwegian Radium Hospital in the nineties, and is a targeted therapy using light to enhance the effect of existing drugs. PCI is an abbreviation for photochemical internalisation and refers to the process of using light to destabilize the cell membrane of the cancer cells in order to deliver the cancer drug effectively.

Bile duct cancer is rare, but extremely severe. PCI Biotech have chosen bile duct cancer due to a clear medical need for a better local treatment, access with light is easy by using already established treatment procedures and one of the most used cytotoxic agents, gemcitabine, is one of the drugs that is significantly enhanced by PCI in preclinical studies.

Please read the press release here.

The PCI technology
Photochemical internalisation (PCI) technology is a technology for light-directed drug delivery, used to enhance the effect of drugs by targeted illumination of the diseased areas of the body.

About PCI Biotech
PCI Biotech has been listed on Oslo Stock Exchange since 2008. The company is offering effective local treatment solutions in cancer through its proprietary photochemical internalisation (PCI) technology. PCI Biotech’s lead photosensitiser Amphinex® is in Phase II clinical development in head and neck cancer in combination with the cytotoxic bleomycin and in Phase I/II clinical development in bile duct cancer in combination with gemcitabine. Read more on PCI Biotech’s website