Hege Russnes and Anne Hansen Ree at this year's Cancer Crosslinks talking about their project, MetAction.

Promising treatment for late stage cancer

MetAction has used targeted gene therapy to give patients with metastatic cancer a treatment method. The future of this work is now in danger.

Late stage cancer is still a real challenge for modern medicine. The gene mutations multiply and are difficult to control. However, the research group MetAction, based at the Oslo University Hospital, has used targeted gene therapy to give patients with metastatic cancer a treatment method.

The results have been very promising, but all the good work could go to waste.

Targeted Gene Theraphy has been described as one of the new important weapons in the fight against cancer for two decades now. Norwegian hospitals still lack an infrastructure to facilitate this type of treatment.

Meet MetAction
MetAction started as a research project in 2014 to explore the possibilities of targeted gene therapy, but ended in 2017 because of a lack of funding. The project made use of modern genetic tools, combined with knowledge across the cancer treatment spectrum, to help patients with late stage cancer.

Cancer Specialist Anne Hansen Ree explained how it all started at this year’s Cancer Crosslinks in January.

– We had this idea to use targeted gene therapy for people who suffered from late stage cancer to deal with the types of mutations common for this group, she said.

With this idea as a backdrop they started developing a research project.

– To do this we had to put together quite a large project with a lot of new diagnostic tools, as well as specialists with the knowledge to interpret the data and find patients that were willing to join the study, she explained.

During the project, MetAction found that they could give at least half of the patients in their study a treatment based on the genetical data collected.

A patient group previously labelled “terminally ill” could actually receive effective treatment.

You can read about the cancer patient Grete and how she was successfully treated with late stage stomach cancer by MetAction in this article in the Norwegian newspaper VG (in Norwegian).

Knowledge in danger
All the knowledge and competence the MetAction group has established in this field is now in danger of disappearing.

– It’s sad to see that all the good work from this project could vanish and that a patient group loses out on a possible treatment method, said molecular pathologist and doctor Hege Russnes.

Both Russnes and Ree emphasized that the research group both want to and should continue.

Join the debate
Last year at the yearly political get-together event “Arendalsuka” Oslo Cancer Cluster and meeting-co-hosts posted the question: “Why can’t we have a second-opinion board for patients that have run out of options, like in Denmark?” Now that a Norwegian Expert Panel is about to come to fruition–as promised by the Norwegian Minister of Health, Bent Høie–it presents an excellent possibility to include personalized gene treatment as a viable treatment option for patients with late stage cancer. We will discuss this possibility during our meeting in Arendal next week.

8 AM Wednesday 15 August, MetAction will present their project and we will discuss possibilities for future cancer treatment as part of this year’s Arendalsuka. Come and join our event there.

Or simply follow our live stream on Facebook!

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