News from external sources

Åslaug Helland receives cancer award

Norwegian cancer researcher dedicated to clinical trials receives prestigious prize.

Professor Åslaug Helland is the recipient of the King Olav Vs Cancer Research Award 2023. Helland is an oncologist and Research Director at Oslo University Hospital (Comprehensive Cancer Centre).

“This is a great honour, and I am very happy about this recognition of the research environment involved. I have been very fortunate working with lots of very talented people over the years!” Helland commented.

The cancer prize is awarded annually by the Norwegian Cancer Society, and it is the highest honour for Norwegian cancer researchers.

The international experts that evaluated the nominated for the prize, emphasized how Helland through her clinical studies has contributed to developing a more personalised treatment for cancer patients.

Innovation for patients

When asked what the biggest challenge right now for the development of cancer diagnostics and treatments in Norway is, Helland responded:

“The developments in cancer diagnostics and treatment over the past few years have been very good, and we need to continue securing the competence and development in all health regions. It is in many ways a new field, and building competence takes time.

“In addition, we need to find ways to offer new and innovative treatments to our patients, and to encourage more clinical trials in Norwegian hospitals. This is an obvious goal from both the public health care system and from the pharmaceutical and diagnostic industry, and by working together we achieve more!”

Leading the way for change

Helland is the Principal Investigator for IMPRESS-Norway, a national clinical study in cancer precision medicine, and Director of MATRIX, the Norwegian Centre for Clinical Cancer Research, as well as Leader for Nortrials. Helland’s key roles in these trailblazing initiatives show her commitment to continually improving cancer care.

“In the future, we have more options in diagnostics and treatment. The field is developing very rapidly, and the public healthcare system will develop to offer new and innovative treatments and diagnostics in a sustainable way. We also have improved decision support systems and improved follow-up programs for our patients,” said Helland.

Helland received the prize in the University Aula from His Majesty King Harald of Norway and in the presence of family, friends, colleagues and the general cancer research community.

Promising early data from Exact Therapeutics’ study

The company is investigating a new ultrasound technology for improved drug delivery.

Exact Therapeutics shared early data from two patients treated in the clinical study ACTIVATE at a Science and Technology event in Oslo this week.

The patients have colorectal cancer with liver metastases, a patient group with a high unmet medical need. They receive chemotherapy in combination with the company’s technology called ACT (short for Acoustic Cluster Therapy). The early results show that the patients had better responses to chemotherapy when their tumours were exposed to ACT.

“Results of the Phase I study have given us several insights, most importantly that the treatment did not reveal any unexpected side effects either on its own or worsen the side effects of chemotherapy in the treated patients. The results also suggest a positive tumour response associated with the ACT treatment. This trial will set the stage for diversifying the use of this technology platform to a wide range of systemic therapies across multiple tumour types,” commented Prof. Dr. Udai Banerji, the principal investigator of the ACTIVATE study.

Seven patients have been recruited to the study, currently active at The Royal Marsden Hospital and Newcastle Hospital. The company is also collaborating with radiologists at Oslo University Hospital to open another study site for Norwegian patients.

What is ACT?

Acoustic cluster therapy is a method for improved drug delivery, by using ultrasound technology and the company’s proprietary product consisting of microbubbles and microdroplets. The microbubbles and microdroplets have opposite charges and therefore form small clusters, which are injected into the patient’s blood.

When these clusters are exposed to ultrasound vibrations, the droplets evaporate into the bubbles and turn into larger “ACT bubbles”. These are temporarily trapped in the patients’ capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body. The ACT bubbles can then be manipulated with a different ultrasound wavelength that makes them oscillate. This stretches the wall of the blood vessel and creates shear forces and streaming in the tissue, so that the cancer drug can be delivered effectively to the tumour.

“Targeted ultrasound is an emerging treatment modality with a lot of interest. You need better methods for efficient delivery of drugs to the disease areas. Targeted ultrasound with ACT is non-invasive and can potentially be done for a number of treatments and indications,” commented Per Walday, CEO of Exact Therapeutics.

The Norwegian ultrasound story

There is a solid Norwegian research tradition within ultrasound, both in medical technology and pharmaceutical diagnostics.

For example, the company Vingmed Ultrasound was built on Norwegian science and technology, and established as a start-up in 1986 developing medical ultrasound diagnostic equipment. The company was later acquired by GE Healthcare and this segment today generates 3 billion dollars in revenue.

Another success story is the company Nycomed, which was also founded on deep science in Norway, and created contrast agents in a variety of forms for diagnostic purposes. Nycomed ended up achieving market leadership and was acquired by GE Healthcare. Today, this is a 2-billion-dollar revenue business.

“Norway is a true global leader in this field, not only in technology and science, but also in business. The medtech and pharmaceutical components are key to us. Exact Therapeutics was spun-off from the pharma business in GE Healthcare. We have agreements with GE Healthcare on development and manufacturing. These are the two building blocks and the foundation for Exact,” commented Anders Wold, Chairman of the Board, Exact Therapeutics.

Potential with immunotherapy

The potential of the technology to enhance the effect of a range of cancer immunotherapies will now also be explored, thanks to a grant of NOK 16 million from the Norwegian Research Council.

“The tumour microenvironment plays a key role in the response to cancer therapies, especially immunotherapy. The majority of cancer patients still do not respond to immunotherapy. The holy grail in this field is to make cold tumours hot and the key is to modify the tumour microenvironment. We hope to achieve this with the ACT treatment,” commented Walday.

Per Walday, CEO, at Exact Therapeutics’ Science and Technology event. Photo: Sofia Linden / Oslo Cancer Cluster

The research project will be performed in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the Institute of Cancer Research at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London and the Translational Genomics Research Institute, part of City of Hope, in Phoenix.

EU wants more Comprehensive Cancer Centres

Oslo University Hospital will help in the preparation and creation of more Comprehensive Cancer Centres.

There are significant inequalities across Europe in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care, and access to clinical trials. In addition, patients that are diagnosed and treated in research-active hospitals have better outcomes than patients treated in general hospitals.

This is why the European Union has an ambition that 90% of eligible patients have access to Comprehensive Cancer Centres by 2030. This is one of the goals in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, which was launched by the European Commission last year and has 4 billion euros earmarked for cancer.

As part of a Joint Action programme for the preparation and creation of more Comprehensive Cancer Centres, Oslo University Hospital has been selected, together with Institut National du Cancer in France, for a central work package, that will look at the framework for building Comprehensive Cancer Centres.

Oslo University Hospital is currently the only Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Norway.

Click here to read more about the Joint Action


About EU Cancer Mission

The Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan & the Mission on Cancer have the ambitious goal to improve the lives of three million Europeans by 2030. This will be achieved through better understanding of cancer, prevention, early diagnosis, personalised treatment, and improved quality of life during and after treatment.

10 milestones from our biotech members in 2022

What a year it has been for the development of Norwegian biotech companies!

We want to recognise the accomplishments of our members this year. Many of them have reached impressive milestones and unfortunately we can’t include all. So we have selected 10 outstanding news stories. These represent both big and small companies, covering various sectors and focusing on different types of cancer therapies and diagnostics. We hope this list serves as inspiration for you and that you get to know our members a bit better.

Strategic collaboration on optimizing TCRs

Nextera set up a strategic collaboration with Zelluna Immunotherapy in March. Together they will optimize T cell receptors (TCRs), which are crucial in the development of a special type of cancer treatment called TCR-based natural killer cell therapies. Nextera is a research-based target and drug discovery company with a unique protein engineering and discovery platform – NextCore.

Read the press release

Faster development of cancer vaccines

NEC Oncoimmunity acquired VAXIMM’s neoantigen vaccine development assets in March. These assets will be used to faster develop personalized T cell cancer vaccines. NEC OncoImmunity AS is a biotechnology company that has developed a machine-learning software to enable development of personalized cancer immunotherapy, in addition to infectious disease vaccines.

Read the press release

Photo of Richard Stratford and Trevor Clancy in OncoImmunity.

Richard Stratford and Trevor Clancy, founders of NEC OncoImmunity AS, an AI driven biotechnology company. They grew the company in the Oslo Cancer Cluster ecosystem, making use of the cluster’s advice and support, and networking and partnering opportunities. The photo was taken in December 2018 outside Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster


Artificial intelligence improves cancer prognosis

In May, DoMore Diagnostics became the first company ever to get a CE-mark for a product that utilises artificial intelligence to improve patient outcomes. The company has developed a deep learning algorithm that can give more accurate prognosis for colorectal cancer patients by analysing standard histology images.

Read the press release

The deep learning algorithm that DoMore Diagnostics is commercialising was first invented by Professor Håvard Danielsen at the Institute of Cancer Genetics and Informatics, also situated in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Danielsen received the King Olav V’s Cancer Research Award in 2022 for his research into artificial intelligence and cancer. Photo: ICGI


Alpha emitter therapy against colorectal cancer

Oncoinvent initiated a phase 2 trial for colorectal patients to be treated with their drug candidate Radspherin in August. The study will be conducted at two sites (the Radium Hospital in Norway and at Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden) and the first patient was included in August. Oncoinvent is a clinical stage company advancing alpha emitter therapy across a variety of cancers.

Read the press release

Takeda Ventures invests in TCR-NK therapies

Zelluna Immunotherapy received an investment from Takeda Ventures Inc. during the company’s financing round in August. The funds will help advance the company’s lead product. Zelluna Immunotherapy is a company pioneering the development of a new type of treatment against solid cancers called “allogeneic T cell receptor guided natural killer cell immunotherapies”.

Read the press release

Zelluna Immunotherapy have enterred several strategic collaborations this year, including with Takeda Ventures and Nextera. This photo was taken of the Zelluna Immunotherapy team at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Photo: Zelluna Immunotherapy

Digital platform for research collaboration

Ledidi revealed the company’s software technology will be used in UK hospitals to improve the treatment, prognosis and care of patients with breast cancer in September. It is the pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s UK branch that is offering subscription access to NHS hospitals for the cloud-based research and registry platform Ledidi Core. Ledidi is a Norwegian technology company with an end-to-end solution for health registers and research.

Read the press release

Einar Martin Aandahl, founder and CEO of Ledidi, developed the research platform because as a clinician he saw a need for simpler collaboration on data between doctors, institutions and countries. Photo: Ledidi


Promising results for universal cancer vaccine

Ultimovacs announced positive three-year results with 71% survival rate for patients in the first cohort of a study into metastatic malignant melanoma in October. The patients had been treated with the company’s product UV1 (a universal cancer vaccine) in combination with pembrolizumab (a checkpoint inhibitor anticancer drug). Ultimovacs is an immunotherapy company developing immune-stimulatory vaccines to treat a broad range of cancers.

Read the press release

Oncolytic peptide against melanoma

Lytix Biopharma expanded the ATLAS study to three European countries in November. ATLAS is a phase 2 combination study, treating patients with advanced melanoma with the company’s product LTX-315 (a first-in-class oncolytic molecule) and pembrolizumab (a checkpoint inhibitor anticancer drug). Lytix Biopharma is a clinical stage biotech company developing novel cancer immunotherapies.

Read the press release

Light cytoscopy against bladder cancer

Photocure’s partner Asieris enrolled the first patient in a phase 3 trial exploring the use of Hexvix and blue versus white light cystoscopy in patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer in November. Hexvix is a drug that preferentially accumulates in cancer cells in the bladder, making them glow bright pink during blue light cystoscopy. This makes it easier to detect and diagnose tumours.

Read the press release

Immunotherapy against cervical cancer

Nykode Therapeutics continues to show positive results from the company’s phase 2 clinical study against cervical cancer in November. The patients in the study have received Nykode Therapeutic’s VB.10.16 (a therapeutic vaccine for the treatment of human papilloma virus-16 induced malignancies) and atezolizumab (a checkpoint inhibitor anti-cancer drug from Roche). Nykode Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel immunotherapies.

Read the press release


Would you like to have your company’s news story featured on our website? Please get in touch with Sofia Linden, Communications adviser at Oslo Cancer Cluster.