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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.

 

Cancer Crosslinks 2020

Engaging presentations by leading international and Norwegian oncology experts at the 12th Cancer Crosslinks “Progress in Cancer Care – A tsunami of promises or Game Changing Strategies?”.

Oslo Cancer Cluster’s annual meeting gathered more than 350 delegates from all over Norway at the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, and more than 50 participants followed the live stream. The record high participation shows the large interest in translational cancer research and the importance of the programme for the Norwegian oncology community.

Cancer Crosslinks has become one of the largest national meeting places for oncologists, haematologists, translational researchers, regulatory experts and industry representatives. The meeting offers a full day educational program.

The aim of the conference is to stimulate broader interactions between researchers and clinicians, to encourage translational and clinical research, and to inspire collaborations. Novel partnerships between industry, academia and authorities are essential to deliver new treatments and diagnostics to Norwegian cancer patients.

“At the start of 2020, cancer patients have more treatment options than ever before. Immuno-oncology is firmly established as the fourth pillar of cancer treatment and the tremendous progress in the field is reflected in increased survival rates,” said Jutta Heix, Head of International Affairs, Oslo Cancer Cluster. “However, many patients do not benefit from novel treatments and we still have significant gaps in our understanding of the complex biological mechanisms. Deciphering this complexity is a task for the decade to come. The Cancer Crosslinks 2020 speakers are shedding light on emerging concepts and key challenges and discuss how they are addressing them to advance cancer care.”

The audience at Cancer Crosslinks 2020.

The audience at Cancer Crosslinks 2020. Photo: Cameo Productions UB/Oslo Cancer Cluster

An inspiring programme

Referring to a record number of new oncology drug approvals in recent years and an enormous global pipeline of drugs in late-stage development, this year’s programme addressed the question “Progress in Cancer Care – A Tsunami of Promises or Game-Changing Strategies?”. Distinguished international experts from leading centres in the US and Europe presented emerging concepts, recent progress and key questions to be addressed for both solid and haematological cancers.

Cancer researchers and clinicians from all of Norway enjoyed excellent presentations and engaging discussions with speakers and colleagues.

“Cancer Crosslinks 2020 gave me an opportunity to listen to talks by international top scientists, and discuss some of the latest developments in translational cancer research with meeting participants from academia and industry in a relaxed and inspiring setting,” said Johanna Olweus, Head of Department of Cancer Immunology at the Institute for Cancer Research.

“Cancer Crosslinks is always a meeting that makes me proud of being part of Oslo Cancer Cluster. It is inspiring to see Norwegian and international participants come together to discuss recent progress in cancer research and how to develop cancer treatments for the patients,” said Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, Chairman of the Board, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The day programme was complemented with an evening reception in the city center where speakers and delegates continued their lively discussions and listened to an inspiring talk by Ole Petter Ottersen, President of Karolinska Institute, at Hotel Continental in Oslo.

Cancer Crosslinks was established by Oslo Cancer Cluster in 2009 in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“Cancer Crosslinks 2020 has been a fantastic conference, where the presenters have given an excellent description of current and near future achievements within cancer research and the importance of understanding the underlying biology of cancer to rationally give patients the correct cancer therapy. In particular within immunotherapy, there is a need to understand the dynamic complexity of tumor immunology and how to apply the best and tailored immuno-oncology based treatment strategy for cancer patients,” said Ali Areffard, Disease Area Specialist Immuno-Oncology, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

This year, the pharmaceutical company Sanofi Genzyme Norway was a proud co-sponsor of the meeting.

“It was great to be able to provide a platform for interaction between the Norwegian scientific cancer environment and top international research capacities. Therefore, it was with huge enthusiasm Sanofi Genzyme co-sponsored this important conference. New treatment options in oncology are developing fast, where new treatment modalities provide clinicians with additional and superior options. New treatments specifically targeting the malignant cells, as well as activating the host immune response towards the cancer, provides tools to significantly improve current cancer treatments. This year’s Cancer Crosslinks conference gave an excellent insight into this,” said Knut Steffensen, Medical Advisor Hematology Nordic & Baltics, Sanofi Genzyme.

Interview with Prof. Jason Luke

View the interview with Prof. Jason Luke, by HealthTalk, in the video below:

Interview with Prof. Michel Sadelain

View the interview with Prof. Michel Sadelain, by HealthTalk, in the video below:

The speakers at Cancer Crosslinks 2020

Jason J. Luke, Director of the Cancer Immunotherapeutics Center, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Hillman Cancer Center

Jason J. Luke, MD, FACP, Director of the Cancer Immunotherapeutics Center, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Hillman Cancer Center, USA. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Stefani Spranger, Howard S. and Linda B. Stern Career Development Assistant Professor, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, Cambridge

Stefani Spranger, Howard S. and Linda B. Stern Career Development Assistant Professor, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, Cambridge, USA. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Harriet Wikman, Professor, Group Leader, Center for Experimental Medicine, Institute of Tumor Biology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf

Harriet Wikman, Professor, Group Leader, Center for Experimental Medicine, Institute of Tumor Biology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Vessela Kristensen, Professor, Department of Cancer Genetics, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital

Vessela Kristensen, Head of Research and Development and Director of Research at the Dept. of Medical Genetics, Oslo University Hospital, Norway. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Peter A. Fasching, Professor of Translational Gynecology and Obstetrics, University Hospital and Comprehensive Cancer Center Erlangen-EMN

Peter A. Fasching, Professor of Translational Gynecology and Obstetrics, University Hospital and Comprehensive Cancer Center Erlangen-EMN, Germany. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Karl Johan Malmberg, Professor, Group Leader Dept. of Cancer Immunology and Director STRAT-CELL, Oslo University Hospital, Norway.

Karl Johan Malmberg, Professor, Group Leader Dept. of Cancer Immunology and Director STRAT-CELL, Oslo University Hospital, Norway. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Michel Sadelain, Director, Center for Cell Engineering, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD, Professor, Director, Center for Cell Engineering, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Bjørn Tore Gjertsen, Consultant Hematology, Haukeland University Hospital, Norway.

Bjørn Tore Gjertsen, Professor of Hematology, Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO, Dept. of Clinical Science, University of Bergen, Norway. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Hermann Einsele, Professor, Chair, Dept. of Internal Medicine II, Head of the Clinical and Translational Research Program on Multiple Myeloma, Wuerzburg University Hospital

Hermann Einsele, Professor, Chair, Dept. of Internal Medicine II, Head of the Clinical and Translational Research Program on Multiple Myeloma, University Hospital Wuerzburg, Germany. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

 

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Photo of the audience at the opening of EHiN 2019.

EHiN 2019 – highlights

Did you miss EHiN this year? Or simply want to catch up on the highlights relating to cancer research? Read our short summary below.

EHiN, short for e-health in Norway, is Norway’s national conference on e-health. It is a meeting place where decision-makers, the business community and the health sector gather to talk, share knowledge, learn from each other and collaborate.

This year, Oslo Cancer Cluster became a co-owner of EHiN (together with ICT Norway and Macsimum), because we believe new technologies and digital solutions are essential in the development of novel cancer treatments. This will only be possible if public and private organizations find new models of collaboration and EHiN is a great platform to create those future partnerships.

Read this interview to find out more about how new technologies can improve cancer research

 

Photo from the panel discussion on health data at EHiN 2019.

A conversation on health data during day 1 of EHiN 2019. Photo credit: Ard Jongsma / Still Water Photography

Capturing the value of health data

An engaging dialogue on the value of health data took place at the end of the first day.

Health data will revolutionize how we understand and how we treat diseases, such as cancer. Better diagnosis and monitoring will change how we design our healthcare systems. A central question is how we capture the value of this revolution. Some fear multinationals like Google and Facebook will exploit our unique health data for profit. Others fear that Norwegians will value and protect their health data too well, resulting in innovation happening elsewhere. Is there a golden mean between giving full access to health data and charging the highest price?

Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster, led the conversation with a panel of four. Joanne Hackett, Chief Commercial Officer at Genomics England, brought an international perspective and experiences of how they have collected 100 000 genomes from patients with rare diseases. Sigrid Bratlie, award-winning cancer researcher, shared her knowledge of new cancer treatments and the opportunities they present in conjunction with health data. Heidi Beate Bentzen, Doctoral Research Fellow at University of Oslo, represented some of the legal considerations when dealing with health data. Rajji Mehdwan, General Manager at Roche, contributed with the pharma industry perspective.

 

Photo of the expo area during EHiN 2019.

The crowded crowded expo area during EHiN 2019. Photo credit: Ard Jongsma / Still Water Photography

Networking in the expo area

The expo area is the heart and soul of EHiN. This is where public and private organizations can meet under informal circumstances and create new partnerships. These collaborations are what lead to knowledge sharing and that digital solutions can be implemented in the health sector.

This year, a pharma company was present in the expo area for the very first time, our member Roche. Roche are investing more in genetic testing and personalized medicines than ever before. But why are genetic tests important for cancer treatments? Cancer is more than a disease, it is about the composition of DNA, RNA and proteins – and how these relate to one another. Every cancer tumor is therefore unique, but by finding out more about the genetic sequence, one can develop personalized treatments that target the tumor effectively.

In the expo area, a variety of start-ups, IT companies, health clusters, public organisations and academic institutions were also present. For two days, the area was buzzing with interactions, meetings and talks.

We hope you carry on the conversations and that we see all of you again next year!

 

Ketil Widerberg, general manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Machine learning improves cancer research

This interview was first published on EHiN’s official website. Scroll down to read it in Norwegian.

 

EHiN is important in order to realise the opportunities that digital technologies can give patients, society and industry.

Ketil Widerberg is the General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, which is a co-owner of EHiN 2019. We asked Ketil Widerberg a few questions about why digitalization and EHiN are important for cancer research.

–Can you describe in short what Oslo Cancer Cluster is and what you do?

Oslo Cancer Cluster is a non-profit member organization that gathers public and private players. The goal is to transform cancer research into treatments that change patients’ lives. We are a National Centre of Expertise (NCE).

–You are now co-owners of EHiN. What do you wish to achieve with that?

Oslo Cancer Cluster has the last ten years developed and established well-known meeting places (such as Cancer Crosslinks) by combining different disciplines. In the future, digitalisation and precision medicine (e-health) will be a central area in cancer research.

EHiN is a perfect match in this area. EHiN will be an important platform in order to realise the opportunities that digital technologies can give patients, society and industry.

–What do you think AI will mean for cancer research?

Today’s breakthroughs in treatment will often only work on 3 out of 10 patients. Artificial intelligence will change medicine in two ways. First, how we understand cancer. In the same way as the microscope gave us the ability to see things on a cellular level, data will now help us to see patterns we never would have discovered.

Second, how we treat cancer will change. We have to be ready to give the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. One way of giving individualised treatments is to recognize patterns – patterns that show how a patient will react from a treatment.

After that, you can see in larger groups of people if this pattern is repeated. Then, you select the patients that have a positive response to the treatment. This will, to begin with, not be a perfect method, but if you repeat this process, the modern machine learning systems can make it better and better.

–We know that health research takes time. How can digital solutions improve this?

Digitalisation will accelerate the development of new treatments in several areas. One area is clinical studies. Digital technology can help to adjust studies according to patient responses and enable digital control arms that shorten years off the developmental period. Digital solutions can make clinical trials more flexible and efficient, by reducing the administrative burden on companies and at the same time make it simpler for patients to enroll.

Gradually, as the volume and speed of the data increases, we have the opportunity to use new machine learning algorithms – such as deep learning. The algorithms can identify digital biomarkers that will give faster and better development of new treatments.

–Why is EHiN an important meeting place for Norway?

EHiN is relevant for Oslo Cancer Cluster because the IT revolution is about to hit the oncology field. Personalized treatments, genomics and the use of health data will soon develop into one of the most important areas of “e-health”. This is also an area that is of great interest for the IT industry, for data storing, data analysis, machine learning, pattern recognition, connecting different data sources, and so on.

At the same time, the technology will also impact the academic world and the pharmaceutical part of the health sector, and contribute to set the rules for the whole value chain in health processes in decades to come. EHiN wishes, in collaboration with Oslo Cancer Cluster, to build Norway as an important international hub in the area of e-health – by gathering and showcasing the different activities at the conference and in other settings.

 

–Selvlærende datasystemer gjør kreftforskning stadig bedre

EHiN er ifølge Ketil Widerberg viktig for å få realisert gevinsten digital teknologi kan tilføre pasientene, samfunnet og næringslivet. Widerberg er daglig leder for Oslo Cancer Cluster, som i høst 2018 gikk inn som medeier av EHiN.

Vi stilte Ketil Widerberg noen spørsmål om hvorfor digitalisering og EHiN er viktig for kreftforskning.

–Kan du beskrive kort hva OCC er og hva dere gjør?

OCC er en non-profit medlemsorganisasjon som samler offentlige og private aktører. Målet er å gjøre kreftforskning til produkter som endrer pasienters liv. Vi er et NCE (National Centre of Expertise).

Dere har blitt med på EHiN. Hva ønsker OCC å oppnå med det?

Oslo Cancer Cluster har de siste 10 årene utviklet og etablert anerkjente møteplasser (som Cancer Crosslinks) ved å kombinere forskjellige fag-grener. Fremover vil digitalisering sammen med presisjonsmedisin (e-Helse) være et sentralt område innenfor kreft.

EHiN er en perfekt match for dette området. I tråd med OCC sin strategi vil EHiN være viktig for å få realisert gevinsten digital teknologi kan tilføre pasientene, samfunnet og næringslivet.

–Hva tror du AI kan bety for forskning rundt kreft?

Dagens behandlingsgjennombrudd vil ofte bare virke på 3 av 10 pasienter. Kunstig intelligens vil endre medisin på to måter. Hvordan vi forstår kreft. På samme måte som mikroskopet ga oss evnen til å se helt ned på cellenivå, vil data nå hjelpe oss til å se mønster vi aldri ellers ville oppdaget.

Hvordan vi behandler kreft vil forandre seg. Vi må derfor klare å gi den rette behandlingen til den rette pasienten til rett tid. En måte å kunne gi individbasert behandling er å gjenkjenne mønster. Mønster som viser hvordan en pasient vil reagere på en behandling.

Deretter se i større grupper mennesker om dette mønsteret gjentar seg. Da kan man plukke ut de pasientene med positivt utbytte av behandlingen. Dette vil i begynnelsen ikke være en perfekt metode, men hvis man gjentar denne prosessen, kan moderne selvlærende datasystemer gjøre den stadig bedre.

–Vi vet at helseforskning tar lang tid. Hvordan kan digitale løsninger bidra på dette?

Digitalisering vil akselerere utviklingen av ny behandling på flere områder. Ett område er kliniske studier. Digital teknologi kan gjøre at studier justeres etter respons og muliggjøre digitale kontrollarmer som korter år av utviklingstiden. Kliniske forsøk kan bli fleksible og effektive ved å redusere administrative byrder på firmaer, og samtidig gjøre det enklere for pasientene.

Etter hvert som volumet og hastigheten på data øker, har vi mulighet til å bruke nye maskinlæringsalgoritmer – som dyplæring. Det kan identifisere digitale biomarkører som vil kunne gi raskere og bedre utvikling av ny pasientbehandling.

–Hvorfor er EHiN en viktig møteplass for Norge?

EHiN er faglig relevant for OCC fordi IT-revolusjonen er i ferd med å slå inn på onkologi feltet. Persontilpasset medisin/behandling, genetikk og bruk av helsedata vil snart utvikle seg til et av de viktigste områdene innen “e-helse”. Dette er også et område som er av stor interesse for IT-bransjen (datalagring, analyse, machine learning, mønstergjenkjenning, kobling av ulike datakilder osv.).

Samtidig vil teknologien også få konsekvenser for den akademiske verden, samt den farmasøytiske delen av helsesektoren, og bidra med å legge rammene for hele verdikjeden i helseprosessene i tiårene fremover. EHiN ønsker, i samarbeid med OCC, å bygge Norge som en viktig internasjonal hub på området e-Helse ved å samle og vise frem ulike aktiviteter på konferansen og også i andre sammenhenger.

 

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