29 October 2018

Danish Research Center for Precision Medicine of Blood Cancer


‘Crack Cancer’ (in Danish: Knæk Cancer), awards DKK 20 Million to establish a collaborations of all Hematology Departments in Danish Hospitals. This grant is an extension of the clinical part of DanStem's Program for Translational Hematology (PTH).

The Program for Translational Hematology (PTH) is a translational research program at DanStem that aims to improve the immediate and long-term outcome for blood cancer patients by coordinating and strengthening ongoing blood cancer research into a program pursuing research questions and integrating results from bench-to-bedside and bedside-to-bench. The PTH goal is to optimize the use of already approved drugs, identify new targets for therapy, develop novel therapies, test potential novel drugs in pre-clinical models, and collaborate with pharmaceutical companies on developing new drugs and test these and other novel drugs in Phase I-II clinical trials.

A new grant of DKK20 million is awarded to extend the PTH program by the establishment of a Danish Research Center for Precision Medicine in Blood Cancer. Initially, the new research center will focus on the diseases acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which are rare but very serious bone marrow diseases. The goal is to find and develop drugs that target the specific cancer cells of the individual patient - called ‘precision medicine’ or ‘personalized medicine’.

The Danish Research Center for Precision Medicine in Blood Cancer covers a group of patients who have a great need for better treatment options than we can offer them today. "The center combines innovative and excellent research from a strong research community and a nationwide center is crucial for understanding the diseases and developing better treatments", says Giske Ursin, Director of the Norwegian Cancer Registry and chairman of the selection of international experts who have been involved in the evaluation of the new research center.

The Danish Research Center for Precision Medicine in Blood Cancer is headquartered at the Biotech Research & Innovation Center (BRIC) at the University of Copenhagen, and will establish a collaboration between researchers and doctors from all hematology departments treating patients with cancer in in Denmark. The grant should be used to build the systems and collaboration to include all phases from basic research to treating patients through the  development of new medicines. "We will improve the treatment, quality of life and survival of patients with MDS and AML. This must be done in a nationwide and coordinated collaboration, so that all patients receive the same treatment of personalized medicine wherever they live, says head of the new center", PTH Professor and Chief Physician at Rigshospitalet, Kirsten Grønbæk.

An interview with Professor Kirsten Grønbæk

Fundamental to the new center will be the construction of a biobank with tissue samples from patients with MDS and AML and a drug screening device, currently being built at Rigshospitalet. Via 'drug screening' the cancer stem cells from the individual patient could be exposed to 400 different drugs.

"In this way, we hope to find the medicine that accurately affects the individual's cancer stem cells, which is the cause for the cancer to return. At the same time, we will try to find the molecular changes that indicate that this is the perfect treatment”, explains Kirsten Grønbæk. "For some patients, we will immediately find one or more drugs that work, but not for all who are in the need for treatment. The idea is that while we try to treat a specific patient, we also learn something for the benefit of future patients", she says.

Although the Danish Research Center for Precision Medicine in Blood Cancer initially focuses on MDS and AML, Kirsten Grønbæk's hopes that it will cover all forms of blood cancer in the future.

Read more about; 
The Program for Translational Hematology (PTH)
Knæk Cancer
Stem cells

The Grant giver is The Danish Cancer Society - Kræftens Bekæmpelse