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En forsker undersøker et celler fra en kreftsvulst. Illustrasjonsfoto: AstraZeneca

Nye kreftbehandlinger krever nye samarbeidsformer

I et debattinnlegg i Aftenposten beskriver Sigbjørn Smeland, Steinar Thoresen og Ketil Widerberg hvordan Norge er i en internasjonal særstilling for godt samarbeid i helsesektoren.

This opinion piece was originally printed in the daily newspaper Aftenposten and is only available in Norwegian. / Debattinnlegget sto først på trykk i Aftenposten mandag 9. august, og kan også leses på aftenposten.no.

 

Innføring av nye legemidler for små pasientgrupper tar unødvendig lang tid. Noen blir ikke tatt i bruk i Norge i det hele tatt. Det er en utfordring.

Direktørene i helseforetakene mener hovedgrunnen er at legemiddelprisene er for høye i forhold til nytten for pasientene. Legemiddelindustrien (LMI) mener at store utviklingskostnader gjør at medisinene er dyre. Pasientorganisasjonene påpeker at byråkrati og prestisje går foran alvorlig syke.

Alle har rett. Likevel er ikke løsningen å argumentere videre i hver sin retning. Det trengs et nytt samarbeid mellom industri, myndigheter og pasientorganisasjoner.

Et nasjonalt samarbeid

Hoveddelen av nye legemidler innføres innen kreft. Her er det nylig etablert et nasjonalt samarbeid som heter Connect. Det skal nettopp forbinde alle oss som jobber med kreft, som legemiddelfirmaer, regulerende myndigheter, Kreftforeningen og sykehusleger.

Målet er å finne løsninger for å få tilgjengelig ny medisin til små pasientgrupper. Det kalles presisjonsmedisin. Connect omfatter både avansert diagnostikk og nye behandlingsmetoder. Det har som ambisjon å løfte frem nye prinsipper for finansiering av nye legemidler.

Innføring av presisjonsmedisin er på mange måter et puslespill. Vårt mål er å sette brikkene sammen til et helhetlig bilde som både er bra for pasientene, men som også skaper innovasjon og er innenfor rammene og prioriteringene vi har i Helse-Norge.

Presisjonsmedisin for små pasientgrupper innebærer at utviklingskostnadene deles på færre pasienter. Dette driver kostnadene oppover.

Dagens gullstandard ved innføring av nye medikamenter er randomiserte kliniske studier. Randomisering innebærer at behandlingene vi sammenligner i en studie, blir tildelt deltagerne helt tilfeldig. Det krever store pasientgrupper og er derfor ikke egnet som eneste grunnlag ved innføring av presisjonsmedisin.

Det illustrerer også en fordel med presisjonsmedisin: Kun et utvalg av pasientene vil bli tilbudt behandlingen, basert på analyser av kreftsvulsten. Det hindrer overbehandling, som vi ser i utstrakt grad i dag.

Lære fra hver pasient

Det er derfor nødvendig med felles utvikling av nye løsninger. Det betyr ikke at firmaer får automatisk godkjenning, eller at klinikere får alt de ønsker til pasientene. Regulerende myndigheter får nok heller ikke jobbe på den samme trygge måten som før. Dette blir et krevende samarbeid for alle parter.

Innføring av presisjonsmedisin i helsevesenet er en utfordring de fleste land sliter med. Samtidig er det en enorm mulighet for kostnadsbesparelser og forbedret omsorg. Et stikkord er «midlertidig godkjenning» under forutsetning av fortsatt kunnskapsgenerering.

For vi må lære fra hver eneste pasient. I Norge gjør vi fremskritt, for eksempel gjennom samarbeid om helsedata, tidlig innføring og ny nasjonal handlingsplan for kliniske studier. Myndigheter og industri finner i økende grad løsninger sammen.

Norge i en særstilling

I Norge kan vi etter samtykke samle informasjon fra blodprøver og overskuddsvev. Dette kan kobles opp mot helseopplysninger fra våre unike kvalitetsregistre. Ett eksempel er Kreftregisteret.

Her er vi internasjonalt i en særstilling. Det kan gi oss interesse fra legemiddelfirmaer og bidra til at flere kliniske studier kommer til Norge.

Men det vil kreve en satsing fra våre politikere. I dag mangler infrastruktur i storskala, og da spesielt drift av biobanker. Dette må på plass. Først da kan vi hevde at vi oppfyller målsetningen om at vi skal lære av hver eneste pasient.

Samarbeid mellom offentlig og privat sektor kan gjøre Norge mer interessant for klinisk utprøvning. Det kan igjen gjøre flere legemidler tidlig tilgjengelig for norske pasienter.

Alene redder det ikke liv. Alene skaper det heller ikke en ledende helsenæring i Norge. Men det hjelper betydelig på veien.

 

Artikkelforfattere:

Sigbjørn Smeland, Klinikkleder ved Oslo universitetssykehus, styreleder i Connect

Steinar Thoresen, Leder av Oncology I Norden og Baltikum i Merck, styremedlem i Connect

Ketil Widerberg, Leder av Oslo Cancer Cluster, styremedlem i Connect

Novartis enters IMPRESS

One of the largest pharmaceutical companies enters the precision cancer study IMPRESS in Norway.

Access to a broad portfolio of different medicines that can match molecular findings in a patient is important to succeed with the precision medicine approach of IMPRESS, Norway’s largest cancer study.

“We are very happy that Novartis is now contributing several of their medicines in the IMPRESS-Norway study. This means that Norwegian cancer patients can have more treatment opportunities in the study and that we can treat more patients based on molecular diagnostics. Novartis has many very interesting medicines. We count on more companies joining the study with their medicines soon,” said Åslaug Helland, National coordinator for IMPRESS-Norway and Head of Research at Oslo University Hospital.

 

Åslaug Helland is looking into the camera with a content smile, wearing a blue jacket and glasses.

Åslaug Helland is National coordinator for IMPRESS-Norway and Head of Research at Oslo University Hospital.

 

Six new medicines

Novartis is happy to support the IMPRESS study with six of its cancer medicines to treat up to one hundred patients. The first two Novartis medicines are ready for use this summer and the last four will probably be introduced during the autumn.

A broad collaboration with pharma partners for IMPRESS is important, both to Norwegian cancer patients who have run out of other treatment options, and to build stronger collaborations between public and private actors in the healthcare sector.

“Novartis is proud to contribute to the solutions of the challenges we are facing in the health ecosystem, including the implementation of personalized medicine. Through IMPRESS-Norway and the public-private collaboration in CONNECT, we wish to contribute to a culture for innovative and trusting partnerships with the health service – partnerships that are greater than the capacity and resources of each side alone. We are stronger together,” said Tarje Bergdahl, Nordic Medical Director Oncology Novartis.

Testing off-label treatments

IMPRESS-Norway is a national clinical study in precision cancer medicine, which is testing off-label treatments on cancer patients based on molecular changes in the patient’s tumour. Patients with advanced cancer disease can receive molecular diagnostics through InPreD (Infrastructure for Precision Diagnostics) and are discussed in a national molecular tumour board to provide optimal treatment for the individual patient. Patients who are eligible for the treatments available in IMPRESS are then offered to participate in the clinical study.

All the Norwegian hospitals that are treating cancer patients are part of IMPRESS, in total 17 hospitals, including the university hospitals. Of these sites, 8 are currently open for the study, the rest are opening in August and September. As of 1 July, 40 patients were included in the molecular profiling with a 500 gene panel, 18 patients were discussed in the national molecular tumour board and 7 patients were included with different treatments in the IMPRESS study.

Read more

  • The consortium CONNECT is linked to the clinical study IMPRESS and the Infrastructure for Precision Diagnostics InPreD. CONNECT has facilitated dialogue meetings between industry representatives and the two mentioned national initiatives IMPRESS and InPreD. CONNECT is coordinated by Oslo Cancer Cluster. Read more about CONNECT, the partners and recent activities here: The CONNECT website
  • Dagens Medisin has written about Novartis entering IMPRESS (in Norwegian) here: Flere legemidler tilgjengelig i IMPRESS-studien

 

New partners join precision medicine consortium

Five new partners have joined CONNECT, a public-private consortium driving the implementation of precision cancer medicine in Norway, coordinated by Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The five latest additions to the public-private consortium CONNECT include the Norwegian Directorate of Health (Helsedirektoratet), the Norwegian Medicines Agency (Statens Legemiddelverk), and pharmaceutical companies Lilly, MSD and Janssen.

The Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Medicines Agency are the most recent public partners to join this unique national public-private partnership.

“The Norwegian Medicines Agency is happy to have joined CONNECT as an observer. Personalised medicine is currently high on the agenda, and we look forward to the extended opportunity for dialogue with national and international stakeholders, provided by CONNECT,” said Karen Marie Ulshagen, Strategic Director, Timely Access, Norwegian Medicines Agency.

The ten pharma companies who co-founded CONNECT in December 2020 are now accompanied by Lilly, MSD and Janssen, all sharing the same vision to drive the implementation of precision cancer medicine in Norway.

“CONNECT represents a collective effort between partners in the healthcare industry (private, public and voluntary sectors) and has the potential to build a culture which fosters innovation, collaboration and development of competency with the increased benefit for the individual patient as the core priority,” said Hilde Enserink, interim Medical Director and Oncology Lead, MSD Norway.

“With our focus on precision cancer medicine in our pipeline and our belief that dialogue and co-operation between all stakeholders is the right way forward, CONNECT fits very well with our purpose in Janssen. In the end though, it is the patients that matter the most and we hope CONNECT will eventually lead to a wider and earlier access to new precision cancer medicines for cancer patients in Norway,” said Sverrir Valgardsson, Medical Affairs Lead, Janssen Norway.

Ravinder Singh, Senior Clinical Research Scientist, Nordic Medical Lead, Lilly, complemented: “The implementation of precision medicine in Norway is a very important measure for Norwegian cancer patients, but at the same time very challenging considering the technological, medical, and regulatory aspects. A united front to facilitate precision medicine, where the pharmaceutical industry is seen as a partner rather than a financial contributor, will be of use for the academic milieu, the industry itself and for Norwegian cancer patients.”

Other CONNECT partners are the Norwegian Pharmaceutical Industry Association (Legemiddelindustrien – LMI), the Norwegian Cancer Society (Kreftforeningen), the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Folkehelseinstituttet) and the tech companies NEC and PubGene. The unique blend of participants enables CONNECT to address current obstacles facing precision cancer medicine in Norway.

Gathering experts to find new solutions

CONNECT was initiated by 22 founding partners in December 2020 and is coordinated by Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Since its establishment, CONNECT has carried out its activities through four working groups gathering experts from the different university hospitals, authorities, industry and the Norwegian Cancer Society. The working groups had regular digital meetings since February 2021, where they created a joint understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with the introduction of cancer precision medicine in a public healthcare setting and started the first initiatives.

CONNECT has also offered open, educational meetings and some are still available to be viewed via the CONNECT webpage Recordings of past events.

The next public meeting will take place during Arendalsuka and be held in Norwegian. The topic is How to succeed with precision cancer medicine – Research and collaboration that brings us further. The event will include conversations about emerging research and treatment opportunities for cancer patients in Norway.

Collaborating with national clinical study

CONNECT has facilitated dialogue meetings between industry representatives and the national initiatives IMPRESS-Norway and InPreD.

IMPRESS-Norway is a national clinical study in precision cancer medicine, which is testing off-label treatments on cancer patients based on molecular changes in the patient’s tumour. Patients with advanced cancer disease can receive molecular diagnostics through InPreD (Infrastructure for Precision Diagnostics) and are discussed in a national molecular tumour board. Patients who are eligible for the treatments available in IMPRESS are then offered to participate in the clinical study.

The pharmaceutical company Novartis agreed this week to contribute six new medicines to IMPRESS-Norway to treat up to one hundred patients. More information about this will be published in English next week.

 

First pharma company joins IMPRESS-Norway

Roche is the first pharmaceutical company included in the national clinical study in cancer precision medicine called IMPRESS-Norway.

IMPRESS-Norway is a national clinical trial in precision oncology. Approved drugs will be used to treat new cancer indications (“off label”) based on the molecular profile of the patient’s tumour. The success of IMPRESS-Norway is dependent on molecularly targeted drugs contributed by pharmaceutical companies. Roche is the first company to officially join IMPRESS-Norway. The company will contribute eight different medicines and provide a diagnostic gene test through its subsidiary Foundation Medicine.

“Positive and important news that Roche wishes to contribute their resources. Now, this will be a joint investment in both diagnostics and treatment, so that precision medicine for advanced cancer disease can be offered at all hospitals in Norway. We are very happy that Roche wishes to participate in this initiative,” commented Egil Støre Blix, oncologist at the Cancer Department at the University Hospital of North Norway and member of the Trial Management Committee at IMPRESS-Norway.

IMPRESS-Norway is in dialogue with several other pharmaceutical companies about contributing cancer medicines. These companies have also joined CONNECT, the newly established public-private partnership initiated to accelerate the implementation of precision medicine for cancer patients in Norway (see the fact box below for a complete list of CONNECT Founding Partners).

“The CONNECT partnership and IMPRESS-Norway are important milestones in the implementation of personalised medicine and will drive the development of a more personalised health service,” commented Ingvild Hagen, Area Owner for Personalized Healthcare in Roche. “We hope that in signing the IMPRESS agreement, we are motivating other companies to do the same. To realise the potential of this project, we are dependent on as many partners as possible. We are definitely stronger together!”

Oslo Cancer Cluster has played an active role in setting up the initiatives IMPRESS-Norway, CONNECT, InPreD and INSIGHT, to gather the Norwegian oncology community with the common goal of getting cancer precision medicine faster to Norwegian patients.

Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster. Photo: Stig Jarnes/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster. Photo: Stig Jarnes/Oslo Cancer Cluster

“Cancer is a genetic disease. However, we often treat according to where in the body the cancer is discovered and not based on the genetic profile. This changes now when technology and medicine are merging in precision medicine. Roche is one of the companies that has come furthest in this development. Their involvement in IMPRESS and CONNECT is highly appreciated. This is an important milestone, and we look forward to more companies following their example,” commented Ketil Widerberg, General Manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Precision medicine is about providing the right treatment for the right patient at the right time. There are many cancer therapies today that can be targeted towards specific molecular changes in the cancer cells. Patient access to molecular diagnostics is one of the prerequisites for the successful implementation of precision medicine.

Randi Hovland, Head of Section for Clinical Genetics at Haukeland University Hospital and member of Trial Management Committee in IMPRESS-Norway. Photo: Mathilde Oseberg

Randi Hovland, Head of Section for Clinical Genetics at Haukeland University Hospital and member of Trial Management Committee in IMPRESS-Norway. Photo: Mathilde Oseberg

“The establishment of broad genetic testing is essential to offer patients our treatments in clinical studies and IMPRESS drives the implementation of this in Norway. For patients whose tumour tissue isn’t available, the contribution from Roche through Foundation Medicine is of great importance to examine whether blood can replace tissue when identifying relevant biomarkers,” commented Randi Hovland, Head of Section for Clinical Genetics at Haukeland University Hospital and member of Trial Management Committee in IMPRESS-Norway.

IMPRESS is based on the DRUP (Drug Rediscovery Protocol) trial in the Netherlands, a precision medicine trial evaluating the effects of a broad portfolio of precision treatments based on the molecular profile of the patient’s tumour. The benefits of this study were highlighted by Emile Voest, Medical Director of The Netherlands Cancer Institute, at the recent Cancer Crosslinks. The  learnings from IMPRESS and related trials will be discussed in CONNECT and are important to develop novel implementation models for cancer precision medicine.

Read more about CONNECT, InPred and INSIGHT here: Landmark public-private agreement for precision cancer medicine

 

CONNECT Founding Partners:

  • Akershus universitetssykehus HF
  • Helse Bergen HF
  • Helse Stavanger HF
  • Olavs hospital HF
  • Universitetssykehuset Nord-Norge HF
  • Oslo Universitetssykehus med Kreftregisteret og OUH Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Folkehelseinstituttet
  • Oslo Cancer Cluster SA
  • Kreftforeningen
  • Legemiddelindustrien
  • Roche Norge AS
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Norway Ltd NUF
  • Novartis Norge AS
  • Merck AB NUF
  • Takeda AS
  • Amgen AB Norge NUF
  • AstraZeneca AS
  • AbbVie AS
  • Bayer AS
  • PubGene AS
  • Pfizer Norge AS
  • NEC Corporation

 

Please get in touch with Jutta Heix, Head of International Affairs at Oslo Cancer Cluster, to learn more about our initiatives in precision medicine and how to join CONNECT.