The speakers Dr. Sara Mastaglio and Dr. Sara Ghorashian came to Oslo to share their research in T cell immunotherapy with the Norwegian research environment. Photo: Christian Tandberg

A café to advance T cell research

We want to accelerate cancer research in T cell immunotherapy!

In order to promote research collaboration, spread knowledge and exchange ideas, Oslo Cancer Cluster arranged a seminar together with Nature Research this week. The topic was T Cell Immunotherapy: Advances, Challenges and Future Directions.

What is T cell immunotherapy?

T cell immunotherapy is a rapidly growing area of research in cancer treatment. The research focuses on finding new ways to trigger the immune system to kill cancer cells.

The treatment method involves collecting T cells (a type of immune system cell) from a patient’s blood sample. The T cells are then modified in the laboratory so they will bind to cancer cells and destroy them.

One way to do this is called CAR T therapy. This involves adding a gene for a special receptor that binds to a specific protein (also called an antigen) on the patient’s cancer cells. The special receptor is called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). These cells are grown in large numbers in the laboratory and then infused in the patient to create an immune response.

Read more about CAR T cell therapies in this article from The National Cancer Institute

Many researchers attended the Nature Café for the opportunity to learn more about recent advances in T cell immunotherapy. Photo: Christian Tandberg

Why is cell therapy important?

Research into T cell immunotherapy is important, because it has the potential to treat and cure cancer. T cell immunotherapy can help cancer patients live longer and potentially has fewer side effects than traditional treatment methods, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

However, more research is needed to make T cell immunotherapy work on all kinds of cancer. For example, some patients with haematologic cancer, cancers that develop in the blood-forming tissue, relapse into disease after treatment. Moreover, T cell immunotherapy does not work on all patients with solid cancer tumours yet.

Researchers wish to know why some cancers are resistant to T cell immunotherapy and why some patients acquire resistance to the treatment over time. Some patients also experience toxic side effects to T cell immunotherapy. Moreover, researchers are continually searching for possible new antigens (proteins) to target.

There are still many unanswered questions and that is why we need to accelerate the research.

Members of the audience were eager to find out more about this rapidly growing area of research. Photo: Christian Tandberg

Why did we arrange this event?

The Norwegian research environment in cancer immunotherapy is world-class. But Norway is a small country and researchers need access to international partners and expertise to develop their findings.

The purpose of the event was to highlight recent findings in T cell immunotherapy. There was also the opportunity to discuss ongoing challenges and opportunities in the development of these types of treatments.

Among the guests were several prominent Norwegian cancer researchers, the pharma industry, hospital clinicians, biotech start-ups, and more. During the seminar, many of the participants in the audience asked follow-up questions and the café breaks were buzzing with conversations between researchers.

The event was an opportunity to discuss with and learn from prominent researchers in the cell therapy field. Photo: Christian Tandberg

Watch the video below to see a few of the participants’ reactions:

Meet the speakers

The moderator for the event was Saheli Sadanand, Associate Editor, Research Manuscripts at Nature Medicine. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

The first speaker was Sara Ghorashian from the University College London. Dr. Ghorashian is a consultant Paediatric Haematologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, and the co-investigator or lead UK investigator for six different CAR T cell clinical trials. She talked about her research to improve outcomes of CAR T cell therapy in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This is a type of cancer in the blood. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

The second speaker was Attilio Bondanza, who is a physician-scientist and the CAR T cell program leader at Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland. Before joining Novartis, Dr. Bondanza was a professor at the San Raffeale University Hospital, where he led the Innovative Immunotherapies Unit. Dr. Bondanza talked about his work to model CAR T cell efficacy and CAR T cell-induced toxicities pre-clinically. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

The third speaker was Sara Mastaglio, who is a physician scientist specialising in haematology at San Raffaele Scientific Institute, in Milan. She has been actively involved in the development and clinical application of CAR T cell therapies. Dr. Mastaglio discussed her research on genome-edited T cells for the treatment of haematological malignancies. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

The last speaker was Aude Chapuis, who is an assistant member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. In addition to running a lab, she sees patients as an attending physician at the Fred Hutch Bone Marrow Transplant Program at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Dr. Chapuis discussed mechanisms of response and resistance to instruct next generations of T cell receptor gene therapy. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

Want to find out more?

In February 2020, the journal Nature Research will publish an article with a more detailed overview of the speakers, their presentations and the research. We will provide a link here when it is available!

If you enjoyed this event, please subscribe to our newsletter to receive invitations to our upcoming events and a digest of our latest news.

 

We want to thank our sponsors for helping us make this event happen.

Photo: Thomas Brun / NTB ScanPix

PCI Biotech works with Astra Zeneca

PCI Biotech reveals they have been collaborating with Astra Zeneca since 2015.

Our member PCI Biotech grabbed the opportunity during their third quarter report this week to announce who their mystery collaboration partner since 2015 has been. The “top-ten pharma company in the world”, who has been helping them, is Astra Zeneca.

PCI Biotech is a company that is based on a technology called photochemical internalisation, which was invented by Professor Kristian Berg from the Norwegian Radium Hospital. The technology is a kind of drug and gene delivery method. It aims to improve the release of big molecules and chemotherapy drugs to the targeted cancer cells. The technology can also potentially be used for a wide variety of diseases and treatments.

The company currently develops three different programs:

  1. FimaCHEM: enhancing the effect of chemotherapy drugs for localised treatment of cancer
  2. FimaVACC: delivering cancer vaccines effectively to the cancer cell and kick-starting a immune response
  3. fimaNAc: delivering nucleid acid therapeutics

You can read more about the revolutionary light technology in the following article:

Astra Zeneca has said that the results from their tests of fimaNAc look very promising in the oncology area. Now, they wish to see if the same technology can work in other disease areas. The pre-clinical collaboration agreement between PCI Biotech and Astra Zeneca lasts until the end of 2019 and the following 6 months will be used to evaluate the potential for further collaboration.

Per Walday, CEO of PCI Biotech, had the following to say about the collaboration:

“Ensuring sufficient intracellular delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics is a major hurdle to realise the vast therapeutic potential of this drug class. We believe that the fimaNAc technology can play an important part in solving this delivery challenge.  PCI Biotech’s current collaborations and their progress suggest that external partners share this view.”

Listen to Per Walday and Ronny Skuggedal talk more about PCI Biotech, the “light technology”, their third quarter report and future milestones in the podcast Radium episode 103.

Photo: Gunnar Kopperud

Kaare R. Norum has died

Kaare R. Norum died on Friday 22 November 2019, at an age of 86 years.

Kaare R. Norum was a professor of nutrition and interested in the connection between our diets and the risk of developing cancer. Norum was a driving force behind gathering the scattered cancer research environments in Oslo.

Norum initiated Oslo Cancer Cluster in 2006, together with Jónas Einarsson, CEO of RADFORSK. At the time, Norum and Einarsson realised that a natural cluster within oncology had developed around the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

The old Ullern Upper Secondary School was back then located on the premises next to the Norwegian Radium Hospital. When the old school was due to be refurbished, Norum and Einarsson had an idea. They wanted to build a new school instead, which would become more than just an ordinary school.

Norum signed the collaboration agreement with the school in 2008. During the following years, Norum, the cluster and the school worked so that the school could become part of a completely new innovation park. In this new building, cancer research would unite the school, the research environments and industry.

Making the dream a reality was at times arduous, but in the end, it was worth it. The old school was torn down in the spring of 2012 and Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park was officially opened in August 2015.

The big auditorium in Ullern Upper Secondary School today is aptly named after Kaare Norum. He will always be the man that the students – the researchers of the future – will be inspired by.

 

Kaare Norum was active in the establishment of Oslo Cancer Cluster and Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. In this image, Jónas Einarsson and Kaare R. Norum participated in the opening of the Innovation Park on 24 August 2015. Photo: Gunnar Kopperud

 

Kaare Norum will be remembered as an ambitious man, who always wished to create new opportunities for science and development. He was generous and he promoted both people and projects.

He was a source of inspiration and support in the work with developing Oslo Cancer Cluster, and he meant a lot to us. He was a part of the board of Oslo Cancer Cluster as an honorary member since the establishment in 2006. He was also, during many years, an important mentor for Jónas Einarsson.

Kaare Norum was forthright and not afraid to challenge established truths or formalities when he looked for support in his most important issues. Lucky for us, in Oslo Cancer Cluster, we were one of his important issues.

Rest in peace, Kaare Norum.

 

Memorial message by,

Jónas Einarsson (CEO of RADFORSK)

Ketil Widerberg (General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster)

Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen (Chairman of the Board of Oslo Cancer Cluster)

 

 

Kaare R. Norum (24 December 1932 – 22 November 2019)

Norum was the principal of the University of Oslo from 1999 to 2001.

He wrote about 300 scientific articles and was known internationally for his research on nutrition. He also wrote several books in popular science and course books about health and nutrition.

Norum was Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav and of the Swedish Royal Order of the Pole Star.

Read more on Kaare R. Norum’s Wikipedia page

Professor Kjersti Flatmark introduces the Ullern students to different cancer treatments, with a focus on colon cancer, during a theme day at Ullern Upper Secondary School. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Who wants to be a doctor?

We join forces with Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo University Hospital every year to arrange theme days for students, so they can get a sense of what it is like to be a doctor.

On 18 November 2019, students from the health program with specialisation in biology and chemistry at Ullern Upper Secondary School, gathered in Kaare Norum Auditorium at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park to learn more about opportunities in medicine. The initiator is Truls Ryder, father of a former student at the school. Ryder is a surgeon at the Norwegian Radium Hospital and has this year once again planned theme days for the students together with his colleagues.

For almost five hours, the Ullern students listened to some of the best oncologists in Norway talk about how they treat cancer patients affected by different forms of cancer. The students are studying either science or health subjects in their third year.

The theme day is a part of the close collaboration between Ullern Upper Secondary School and the Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital. For two days, 18 of the students who consider applying to medical or nursing school will follow the oncologists around the different departments of the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

“The students who have been chosen to job shadow are in their last year and will soon choose their next program of study,” Bente Prestegård said. She is the project manager for the school collaboration between Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The purpose of the job shadowing is that students who participate will get an inside look into the opportunities that exist in medical subjects before choosing what to study next.

A fantastic initiative

Truls Ryder is the initiator behind the theme day and the following job shadowing, like he was last year. His children have gone to Ullern Upper Secondary School and he works as an attending physician at the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

“Thank you to the initiator Truls Ryder and his colleagues who have dedicated two days for this. It was really successful last year and we are incredibly happy to be able to offer the students this opportunity again,” Prestegård said.

Prestegård has contributed to the planning of the theme days with her long experience from other projects between members of Oslo Cancer Cluster and the school.

You can read about last year’s theme day and job shadowing here.

A varied program

The theme day today was spent in Kaare Norums Auditorium from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm. During these hours, the students have gained an in-depth introduction to modern cancer treatments, from radiology to plastic surgery, and what it is like to be a cancer patient and receive treatment.

“I look forward to the program myself, because there are many skilled experts, who will present what they do in cancer treatment and more. The goal with such a broad program is to give the students the greatest possible understanding of all the different directions and opportunities that medical study can offer,” said Ryder.

Program (Monday 18 November 2019):

11:30-11:55 Welcome, with Attending Physician Truls Ryder

11:55-12:20 Cancer treatment with focus on colon cancer, with Professor Kjersti Flatmark

Break

12:30-12:55 “Fight HPV” with Attending Physician Ameli Trope from Kreftregisteret

12:55-13:20 What is anesthesiology? with Professor Ulf Kongsgaard

Break

13:40-14:05 Melanoma, with Attending Physician Anna Winge-Main

14:05-14:30 Plastic surgery – more than just cosmetics! with Head of Clinic and Attending Physician Kim Tønseth

Break

14:40-15:05 Radiology – More than just x-rays! with Attending Physician Marianne Fretheim

15:05-15:30 What is it like to be a patient? with Jeanett Hoel, Chairman of the Norwegian Gynaecological Cancer Society and Attending Physician Kristina Lindemann

15:30-15:45 Summary and practical information concerning clinical rotation, with Attending Physician Truls Ryder

Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder Oslo Cancer Cluster, uttaler seg om tre viktige temaer i innstillingen om Helsenæringsmeldingen.

Tre viktige temaer i helsenæring

Næringskomiteens innstilling om helsenæringsmeldingen er klar. Dette mener Oslo Cancer Cluster om tre viktige temaer i innstillingen.

Næringskomiteens innstilling om helsenæringsmeldingen trekker frem mange viktige aspekter ved norsk helsenæring. Helse- og omsorgskomiteen kommenterer også meldingen i samme innstilling.

Oslo Cancer Cluster ønsker å kommentere spesielt tre temaer som disse to komiteene tar opp i innstillingen til Stortinget.

– Nå er det viktig at alle som ønsker en sterk norsk helsenæring følger opp hva meldingen betyr i praksis, sier Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Kliniske studier

Komiteen går inn for en bedre tilrettelegging for kliniske studier og bruk av helseregistre, slik Helsenæringsmeldingen foreslår. En samlet næringskomité mener videre at forventningene til innovasjon og samarbeid med forskning og næringsliv i oppdragsdokumenter til helseforetakene må følges opp med insentiver og finansieringssystemer.

– Vi applauderer at komiteen krever finansieringssystemer for dette. Vi ønsker å understreke hvor viktig det vil være å innføre en takst for kliniske studier som gjør at leger og andre helsearbeidere får tid og insentiver til å utvikle bedre behandling for pasienter – i samarbeid med industrien, sier Ketil Widerberg.

Oslo Cancer Cluster foreslo i sitt høringsinnspill til helsenæringsmeldingen å etablere et nasjonalt senter for kliniske studier, og at senteret knyttes til en felles database for helsedata hvor både myndigheter, forskning og industri kan få tilgang til løpende pasientdata fra behandling av den enkelte pasient.

Oslo Cancer Cluster foreslo også å etablere et nordisk senter for celleterapi. Det er vel innen rekkevidde, tatt i betraktning at Norge er ledende på immunterapi og spesielt celleterapi spesielt innen kreft – og at kreft er spydspissen i kliniske studier internasjonalt.

Begge disse forslagene fra Oslo Cancer Cluster har komiteen trukket frem i sin innstilling.

Norge har blitt det minst attraktive landet i Norden for kliniske studier. Oslo Cancer Cluster understreker at Norge må tørre å være først ute på to vesentlige områder for å snu denne utviklingen:

Norge må nå ta lederrollen i utviklingen av klinisk dokumentasjon og være et foregangsland i godkjenning av ny presisjonsmedisin.

Den muntlige høringen i Næringskomiteen kan sees i sin helhet på Stortingets nettsider.

Offentlig-privat samarbeid

– Oslo Cancer Cluster har alltid prioritert arbeidet for en sterkere kultur for samarbeid og dialog mellom helsetjenesten, akademia og næringsliv. Det er et kontinuerlig arbeid og vi ser med glede at komiteen stiller seg bak dette, sier Widerberg.

Komiteen peker på at Norge i løpet av de siste årene har bygd opp verdensledende helseklynger som nettopp Oslo Cancer Cluster og Norway Health Tech. Disse klyngene har utviklet økosystemer som bidrar til å etablere nye bedrifter og øke konkurransekraften.

Komiteen ber regjeringen “vurdere tiltak som kan sikre videreføring av klyngene som en møteplass mellom det offentlige og private og som bidragsytere til internasjonal vekst.”

For Oslo Cancer Cluster er det motiverende å se at dette blir poengtert.

Helsedata

– Helsedata er et tema som Oslo Cancer Cluster har engasjert seg i siden oppstarten for over ti år siden, men som vi ser nå blir stadig mer aktuelt grunnet sammensmeltingen av biologi og teknologi, sier Widerberg.

Komiteen peker på mange muligheter med helsedata, som er en viktig del av norsk helsenæring – ikke minst for å gi pasienter best behandling.

– Vi ser imidlertid behovet for en konkretisering av hvordan vi legger opp til bruk av helsedata i utvikling av legemidler. Vi trenger også en mer konkret plan for hvordan vi kan bruke helsedata for å forstå genetisk data for å bedre helsen vår, sier Widerberg.

Næringskomiteens innstilling om helsenæringsmeldingen ble behandlet i Stortinget 26. november 2019. Møtet ble filmet og ligger i Stortingets videoarkiv.

 

Les mer

 

Reports from the third quarter from our members have been published. Photo: Unsplash

What’s new in Q3?

Positive results from clinical trials, revenue growth and new clinical collaborations … Read some of the third quarter developments from our members below.

BerGenBio

  • BerGenBio showed results from their clinical trial for patients with non-small cell lung cancer, who have previously been treated with chemotherapy. The results showed they met primary and secondary endpoints.
  • The company presented interim safety data from a Phase Ib/II trial. They are testing their drug bemcentinib in combination with pembrolizumab on melanoma patients. The data shows the combination is well tolerated by patients.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted bemcentinib Fast Track Designation. This means they will do an expedited review of the investigational drug. The designation is for the treatment of elderly patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), who have relapsed.

Read more in the press release from BerGenBio

Nordic Nanovector

  • Nordic Nanovector raised approximately NOK 243 million in private placement of new shares. This will provide further funds to continue the clinical development of their drug Betalutin, manufacturing and other commercial activities.
  • The company presented new results from a clinical trial, testing their drug Betalutin on patients with non-Hodgkins lymphoma (a type of blood cancer). The median duration of response was 13.6 months for all responders and 32.0 months for complete responders.
  • The company reported 3 out of 3 patient responses in the first patient cohort in one of their clinical trials. The patients were given Betalutin in combination with rituximab to treat 3rd-line relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma (also a type of blood cancer).

Read more in the press release from Nordic Nanovector

Photocure

  • Photocure reported a revenue growth of 42% in local currency for the US market.
  • The revenues in the Nordics declined 7% to NOK 9.9 million (NOK 10.6 million) in the third quarter.
  • The company entered into a licensing agreement with Asieris Meditech Co. to commercialize the product Cevira to the global market. Cevira is a non-invasive photodynamic therapy for HPV-related (cervical) diseases.

Read more in the press release from Photocure

 

Targovax

  • Targovax presented new data from the first part of the clinical trial of their oncolytic virus. The trial has shown clinical responses in three out of nine patients. This treatment targets patients with refractory advanced melanoma (skin cancer).
  • The company announced an expansion of the clinical trial of the oncolytic virus ONCOS-102 in combination with the checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi. This trial is open for patients with advanced peritoneal malignancies (a rare cancer that develops in the tissue that lines the abdomen).
  • The company publicised that Oslo University Hospital will become a site for the clinical trial of their oncolytic virus ONCOS-102.

Read more in the press release from Targovax

 

Ultimovacs

  • Ultimovacs presented long-term results from the clinical study of their therapeutic cancer vaccine UV1. The patients have non-small cell lung cancer and the trial has shown a 4-year overall survival rate of 39% (7 of 18 patients are still alive).
  • New data from their prostate cancer trial showed a 5-year overall survival rate of 50% (11 of 22 patients are still alive).
  • A phase II clinical trial for patients with malignant melanoma (skin cancer) is projected to start in the first quarter of 2020.

Read more in the press release from Ultimovacs

 

More third quarter reports from our other members are or will be made available on their respective websites.

 

1 650 people attended EHiN 2019 to discuss e-health in Norway. Photo credit: Ard Jongsma / Still Words Photography

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

 

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.

 

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!

 

Thomas Andersson, Business Development Adviser in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, is one of the health mentors in the new scheme from Innovation Norway to help health startups to grow.

Find your health mentor

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has joined a new national health mentor program to help Norwegian startups connect with the right experts.

Are you a health startup? Do you need help to get going? Eight health clusters and incubators have joined forces to provide mentors and specialist knowledge to Norwegian health startups, through the new health mentor program from Innovation Norway. One of them is Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, commented:

“Innovation Norway’s new health mentor program is a good scheme for startups that need help to establish their company. Access to a network of health mentors give the companies the opportunity to get tailor-made guidance in a very challenging development phase.”

This is the first time Innovation Norway offers a mentor program for a specific industry. The scheme is a pilot project for year 2020. Bård Stranheim, responsible for the mentor program in Innovation Norway, said:

“Good mentors are an important key to growth. This scheme will give high-quality mentors. Maybe this pilot project will be the basis of a new model to connect world-class mentors with Norwegian startups to prepare them for international growth.”

 

The health mentor program consists of:

 

Apply on Innovation Norway’s website for a health mentor

 

Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk, and Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen, Communications Manager at Radforsk, invite guests on the podcast Radium to discuss recent developments in the Norwegian oncology field.

100 episodes of cancer research & development

From a relatively modest podcast to packed live shows at Arendalsuka, Radium has in three years grown into a leading cancer podcast in Norway.

Radium is a weekly podcast about Norwegian cutting-edge cancer research and development, produced by the evergreen investment fund Radforsk. Radforsk has 15 companies in its portfolio, of which five are on the stock market and 10 are also members of Oslo Cancer Cluster. Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen, Communications Manager, and Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk, bring guests on the show to discuss recent development in the oncology field and news from the portfolio companies.

“Three years ago, Elisabeth came to me and said ‘Now, we are going to do something new – we will make a podcast’. I replied ‘That’s great! But what is a podcast?’” Einarsson said.

Andersen then took the first steps and employed students from the media program at Ullern Upper Secondary School to help with sound production.

 

Interested investors

Andersen and Einarsson quickly noticed there is great interest in the podcast, especially from investors and shareholders. They want to stay updated about Norwegian cancer research, a relatively new but growing sector. They often send in questions, which Andersen and Einarsson ask the guests in the studio.

“We try to simplify things. It is easier to hear it explained by someone from a company, than to read a difficult press release,” Andersen said.

“I think the best episodes are when we get a good dialogue with the CEOs of the companies, especially when things get a little heated. I try to lure them out on the thin ice to make them tell us more,” Einarsson said.

The popular podcast format has exploded in recent years, giving people access to accessible conversations that they can listen to whenever they want.

“There is no strict direction. We say that we are just going to have a conversation and then we talk for an hour or more,“ Einarsson said. “We have a down-to-earth style, but Elisabeth will pull us back if the guests or I dive too deep into details.”

 

Affecting health policies

Radium has also had several events with live streaming. At Arendalsuka this year, the premises were fully packed with eager listeners at both of their live shows.

“At Arendal, we try to have podcasts with others in the cancer field and aim to be more political. We think it has worked very well, because we can reach out to even more people when we stream the event,” Elisabeth said.

“I think the podcast will interest people working in the health industry and health politics too,” Einarsson said. “For example, the health minister was a guest for an entire hour, talking about current challenges.”

 

Best of Norwegian research

Radium regularly invites famous names from the Norwegian research community too. Steinar Aamdal, a prominent researcher in cancer immunotherapies has been a guest. Another cancer expert, Håvard Danielsen, who works on the DoMore project at Oslo University Hospital, has also talked on the podcast.

Øyvind Bruland and Roy Larsen, the serial entrepreneurs who started Algeta, Nordic Nanovector and OncoInvent, also visited the show.

Soon, Radium will host Kristian Berg, the researcher behind PCI Biotech’s technology: photochemical internalisation technology.

“I believe people think it is very interesting to, through the podcast, meet the people who actually have researched and developed the treatments,” Einarsson said.

 

For the patients

Einarsson and Andersen have also noticed that cancer patients or their family members listen to the podcast to hear about what is happening in the field.

“It is important to communicate that we do this for the patients. An important driving force is that we wish to contribute to developing better treatments for patients,” said Andersen.

“Every time the survival rate increases, it means one patient gets to live longer – and perhaps that is because of a treatment we have helped to develop,” said Einarsson. “To be a part of the journey with immunotherapy over the last 20 years, for an old doctor like me, is absolutely fantastic.”

 

Listen and download Radium:

 

Send in your ideas for guests and topics directly to Radium.

 

Episode 100 was recorded at Kulturhuset in Oslo, with several interesting guests, a friendly atmosphere and, delicious food and beverages. Stay tuned for upcoming live events via Radforsk’s Facebook page!

 

Ketil Widerberg, General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, looks forward to taking part in EHiN - Norway's national e-health conference - next week.

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.