RESEARCH. The University of Gothenburg and Region Västra Götaland are establishing a joint infrastructure for sample and tissue management and collection of quality registry data for cancer patients in the region. The initiative was made possible through a grant from the Sjöberg Foundation, and will create better opportunities for personalized cancer treatments.
Future cancer treatments will become increasingly more customized according to each individual’s characteristics. In all cancers, there are genetic changes, so called mutations, that can contribute to tumor development.
Some of the mutations give the patient better or worse capacity to respond to certain cancer drugs. By analyzing tumor tissue samples, it is possible to personalize treatments more accurately and choose the option that will give the best effect.
Grant from the Sjöberg Foundation
The University of Gothenburg and Region Västra Götaland were granted funding from the Sjöberg Foundation as part of a project proposal call for the development of a regional infrastructure for data collection. The initiative, Partnership for Precision Cancer Medicine (PPCM), is a national collaborative project in which healthcare, academia and regional cancer centers (RCC) work together to create cancer care with integrated clinical and translational research.
“This initiative gives us unique opportunities for translational research to refine diagnostics and develop better and more effective treatments for cancer patients,” says Göran Stenman, Professor of Pathology and Sahlgrenska Academy’s representative in the regional steering committee.
“The infrastructure will create enormous opportunities in cancer research in both the shorter and in the longer perspective. The initiative enables us to quickly transfer research results to the clinic, where they can benefit patients,” says Peter Naredi, Professor of Surgery and Head of the Institute of Clinical Sciences at the University of Gothenburg.
In the western healthcare region, the project comprises SEK one million in support from the foundation and involves hospitals that treat lung cancer, namely Northern Älvsburg County Hospital (NÄL), Skövde, Södra Älvsborg Hospital (SÄS) and Sahlgrenska University Hospital plus Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg and RCC West.
Infrastructure and research funding
The first step is to establish regional nodes to create an infrastructure for sample and clinical data collection. Initially, samples from patients with lung cancer will be collected. At a later stage, it will include other forms of cancers for which personalized therapies are expected to become important. The Sjöberg Foundation will offer funding to promote research within the relevant tumor groups. Applications for lung cancer research projects have already been prioritized in each region and are now being evaluated by the Foundation.
“The primary focus on lung cancer feels right for a number of reasons. Not only is there a possibility to customize and improve treatment results, but also to improve the patient’s situation within the healthcare system,” says Thomas Björk Eriksson, Head of RCC West.
Regional node for cancer research in Gothenburg
The regional nodes will be coordinated nationally, but have each an appointed node coordinator, a research coordinator and a chair of each tumor group.
In Gothenburg, the work is being led by node coordinator Lars Ny, Oncologist at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Adjunct University Lecturer at Sahlgrenska Academy. Caroline Olsson, Associate Professor and responsible for R&D at RCC West, is the research coordinator, and the chair of the lung cancer working group is Andreas Hallqvist, Oncologist and Doctor of Medicine at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
“The Sjöberg Foundation’s focus on precision medicine in Sweden creates an opportunity to build a collaborative organization that has the potential to contribute to new treatment possibilities in the future,” says Lars Ny. He continues.
“Hopefully, we will see that a joint commitment from the clinic, biobank and registry can support molecular pathology as a natural and significant part of both research and healthcare.”
“In too many cases, you work in parallel rather than together, both within and between different organizations. The Sjöberg Foundation’s initiative promotes a shared infrastructure, which in the longer perspective will improve the conditions for research and thereby contribute to even better cancer care. I am very happy to be part of and contribute to this process on behalf of the western healthcare region,” says Caroline Olsson.
A local steering and collaboration committee has been formed, with representatives from all participating organizations, and a first national meeting has been held. The intention now is for the regional work concerning lung cancer to be realized over the next two years in order to gradually achieve the vision of the Sjöberg Foundation “Correct treatment and follow-up for each cancer patient by 2025”.
Read more about the Sjöberg Foundation here: http://sjobergstiftelsen.se/
TEXT: ELIN LINDSTRÖM CLAESSEN, ANNIKA MATTSSON AND ANNA NILSSON