GRANT. Helena Carén, who heads a group researching tumour epigenetics at Sahlgrenska Cancer Center, is now having four years of research funded by the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation.
Helena Carén’s research field, epigenetics, is the link between genes and the environment. The body uses different epigenetic selections to turn on or off different genes. Epigenetics – and thus gene activity – can also be affected by the environment in which we live.
It is no coincidence that the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation is now choosing to invest in Helena Carén. Her research chiefly contributes to the improvement of treatments for children with brain tumours. Among other things, the group has developed a tool that can be used to classify and subgroup brain tumours in children using epigenetic profiles of tumour tissue.
“We have just started a national study in collaboration with Sahlgrenska University Hospital where the tool will be used on all Swedish children who are undergoing surgery for a brain tumour in the coming years. This is in order to investigate whether it may be helpful to establish a more accurate diagnosis, something which might be important in choosing a treatment,” says Helena Carén.
The group is also working to improve on models for studying brain tumours in children, and earlier this year they published a paper describing their cell culture systems and animal models, where the group shows that the tumour cells are very stable in the systems and also represent and behave like the tumours they come from.
“We are currently continuing the work with our models and trying to answer a number of different questions we have regarding, for example, epigenetic regulation and how we can influence this therapeutically,” says Helena Carén and goes on to add:
“It’s great that we have come so far that we’re now investigating whether our research results can be applied within clinical use to help patients. And it feels very good to know we have an effective system to test our hypotheses and that we can now delve deeper into answering the questions we have.”
Helena Carén has previously received a number of grants for her research. In addition to grants from both the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Cancer Society, she has also received the Swedish Society for Medical Research (SSMF) establishment grant for young researchers (Stora Anslag), the Hasselblad Foundation’s grant for further research qualifications for women researchers in the natural sciences, and the EU-funded Marie Curie Career Integration Grant. She heads a broad research group at Sahlgrenska Cancer Center:
“Our group includes both experimental and clinical researchers and we work closely with each other on our subjects. It is very rewarding to be able to share our different backgrounds and expertise with each other in order for our research to progress in the best possible way. It also means we have great fun together!“