Size Matters: Need for Nordic Collaboration in Oncology Now

By Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen, Communication Consultant Oslo Cancer Cluster
& Ketil Widerberg, General Manager Oslo Cancer Cluster


The biopharmaceutical industry is at a frenzy to develop innovative drugs for cancer. No wonder, when the market size is estimated to over 800 BNOK in 2020, the population world-wide is getting older and the incidence and prevalence of cancer is increasing. Hence – the need for better treatments is increasing exponentially. Both within immunotherapies and precision medicine there is a global race to develop the next generation treatments.

Nordic countries have a lot to contribute to here: Excellent research, very good public healthcare systems, national registries. To make most out of this they should team up and position the Nordics as a strong player contributing to the global value chain from bench to bedside. The Nordics should unite and act as a one-stop shop for clinical trials within oncology and work with the global companies to set up Nordic collaborations through the value chain from bench to bedside.

Cancer is a global burden. Every year 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 8,2 million people die of the disease each year. WHO expect a 70 % increase in diagnosis in the next decade. With rich, stable societies and the happiest and well-educated inhabitants the Nordics have a moral and ethical duty to contribute to solve the Worlds toughest challenges like disease and climate change.

The countries individually, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark are way too small to get attention alone. We are not seen as interesting markets due to small population sizes. But if we team up it is different. Size matters in the war on cancer.

The Nordic countries have some unique features for oncology R&D, and the potential to be a global test bed for novel treatment. Factors we take for granted are unique features globally; great health registries, extensive bio banks, homogenous populations, trust in research, good and public health care systems and unique personal number each of us have from birth to death. The Nordic population may serve both as a predictor for novel biomarkers and diagnostic tests, and later as a real life verification for the effect of new treatments.

The need and benefits of Nordic collaboration within the oncology area is not a new idea. Several voices have raised this issue at numerous occasions. So far nothing more than words and political celebration speeches have come out of this. We have some initiatives going, like Nordic Life Science Days, collaborations between Oslo Cancer Cluster and the Medicon Valley Region and NordicNECT – but now is the time to step up on this. With the digital oncology revolution things will move fast. The Nordic countries need to get a much needed collaboration going. We are ready – let us move now.