The Norwegian Radium Hospital and its Institute for Cancer Research has long been internationally recognized for its innovative and efficient approach to cancer research and innovation. Since establishment more than 50 years ago, basic and translational cancer research has been the priority, and the recent merger with the Rikshospitalet University Hospital has improved an already bright future.
The impressive coalition between the two hospitals has been internationally recognized and designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC), an achievement that ranks it with centres such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Dana-Farber, MIT, the Curie Institute in Paris and the Ludwig Institutes for Cancer Research in Brussels and London. The CCC became a member of the Organization of European Cancer Institutes in 2007, part of a growing European cancer research network, and is currently working to increase transatlantic interaction on cancer research and innovation together with Innovation Norway, Medinnova and the Research Council of Norway
With a focus on cancer, research at the Radium Hospital has shown a consistently high level of productivity and success.
© Rikshospitalet HF
The Radium Hospital/Rikshospitalet coalition is also the base for the Center for Cancer Biomedicine, recently awarded status as a Centre of Excellence (CoE). With this status comes the guarantee of substantial governmental funding for the next decade. This CoE, led by Professor Harald A. Stenmark, is comprised of seven research groups dedicated to gaining a deeper understanding of various types of cancer.
Radium Hospital/Rikshospitalet also hosts the Center for Research-based Innovation, led by Stefan Krauss and Ola Myklebost, spotlighting stem cell research within the cancer field. In cooperation with the University of Oslo, Ullevål Hospital and industry partners such as Invitrogen, Dynal, Affitech, Alpharma and Photocure/PCI Biotech; this Center will research the relationships of stem-like cells in tumour development. The identification of their unique properties may lead the way in finding new diagnostics and therapies.
Best in their Class
The Rikshospitalet University Hospital is a coalition of a number of different hospitals that are located in southern and eastern Norway. Rikshospitalet’s major objective is to serve in the capacity as national reference hospital that will safeguard and develop highly specialized medicine within six core areas: transplantation medicine, children’s illnesses, women’s illnesses, oncology, coronary disorders and disorders of the brain and nervous system.
Research at the Radium Hospital has shown a high level of productivity and success, with seven research departments covering the entire spectrum of cancer-related research. Centering on translational research, these areas include the Departments of Biochemistry, Cancer Prevention, Cell Biology, Immunology, Radium Biology, Tumor Biology and the Department of Genetics.
A wide range of Radium Hospital research programmes are also ongoing, including Functional Genomics, Immunotherapy, Micrometastasis, PCI/PDT, Radiation Research, Stem Cell Projects and Gene Therapy. In addition, the Radium Hospital carries out ongoing clinical research in order to test new methods of cancer treatment. This impressive research effort is reinforced by the Oslo Cancer Cluster, an affiliation of nearly forty members, including industrial companies, academic research institutions, health initiatives and support groups.
The Genes Hold One Key
Headed by Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale, the Radium Hospital Department of Genetics researches processes, including the successful discovery of five different molecular subclasses of breast cancer through examination of gene expression profiles – molecular “portraits” of the disease that predict different survival rates.
As Dr. Børresen-Dale indicates; “We want to build the whole picture from risk, early diagnosis, development, progression and treatment of the disease by taking a systems biology approach,” she says. “This means gathering as much information as possible, including molecular profiles of healthy tissue and of tissue at various stages of the disease from diagnosis through to relapse or recovery.”
As with all research departments within the Radium Hospital, the goals of the Department of Genetics are ambitious but achievable. These include joining forces and expertise within the Oslo medical and education environment to create a world-leading Breast Cancer Research Center; to follow the linear time course of predisposition, initiation, early stages and advanced disease, then dissect the molecular mechanisms triggered at each stage; and finally, to follow the multidimensional interactions at various levels in a systems biology approach.
Strength in Cooperation
The list of successful biotechnology companies affiliated with Radium Hospital/ Rikshospitalet is impressive. These include Diagenic, a company using gene expression measurements in blood to detect diseases. Currently finalizing tests for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and of breast cancer, the company has already presented detailed study-results of these tests to the international environment. In addition, studies are currently being conducted with blood samples from patients in Europe, USA and India, with both tests targeted for CE approval during 2008 with subsequent FDA approvals. The first commercial agreement is already in place for the breast cancer test.
Other Diagenic activities are continuing to gain international attention, including a research collaboration with the Harvard Medical School’s Clemens Scherzer Group, a study funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). Company techniques will be used in developing a test for early Parkinson’s disease detection, Diagenic’s third product.
Using the most advanced technology, Diagenic uses gene expression measurements in blood to detect diseases.
Spinning-off to Success
Spin-off stories have included Biomolex, a joint-venture between Ideas ASA and the Radium Hospital established in 2001 based on technology within autoradiography, genomics and proteomics; and the successful GemVax, sold in 2007 to the Danish pharmaceutical Pharmexa. The well-known company PhotoCure was formed as a result of photodynamic therapy based on in-house research, which in turn generated another spin-off, PCI Biotech, on the forefront of the novel drug delivery technology, photochemical internalization (PCI).
PCI is a technology for light-directed drug delivery and was developed to introduce therapeutic molecules in a biologically active form specifically into diseased cells, enhancing the delivery of all molecules taken into the cell by endocytosis. This includes most types of macromolecules, drugs carried by antibodies or nanoparticles, as well as some small molecule drugs. In 2007, PCI Biotech filed two patent applications covering the combination of siRNA (short interfering RNA) and the PCI technology, and the company will continue to explore the outer reaches of PCI-technology.
The positive results that have been generated by the Radium Hospital/Rikhospital cooperation are impressive. Look for this success to continue to generate success as they work together with the Norwegian health environment academia, clinical research, and industry in a common effort to reduce the effects of various forms of cancer in the world.