Åslaug Helland's research group

Translational studies on solid tumours

Åslaug Helland

Our group focuses on translational studies on solid tumours, with a special interest in pancreatic cancers, lung cancers, ovary cancers and colorectal cancers. We do whole genome analyses on patient material, aiming at identifying predictive and prognostic biomarkers. We are analysing mRNA, miRNA, DNA, methylation, glycosylation, mutations and proteins. By increasing the understanding of the underlying biology of tumour development, we aim at improving cancer patient care. Several of our projects include material from patients included in clinical studies, and we have clinical and follow-up data from all patients.

The group has three research project groups, with a total of 17 members and four associate members. Eight of these 17 are MDs. We are three researchers, two postdocs, nine PhD-students, one study nurse and two engineers.


The ultimate goal is to personalise cancer treatment, and improve prognosis.

  • Identification of biomarkers in blood samples, for diagnostics, follow-up and prognostication
  • Identification of tumour biomarkers for prediction of therapy response and for prognosticaton


  • Serum miRNA-signatures identifying lung cancer patients
  • Molecular characterisation of lung adenocarcinomas
  • Molecular characterisation of pancreatic cancers
  • Genome-wide detection of diagnostic plasma miRNAs in pancreatic cancer
  • Immunological features - therapy response
  • MiRNA in ovarian cancer
  • Improving radiotherapy in lung cancer
  • Identification of biomarkers in colorectal cancers
  • Protein analyses in lung and pancreatic cancers
  • NGS of lung carcinomas
  • Exosome profiles of proteins and miRNAs in plasma of pancreatic cancer patients
  • Serum N-glycans as prognostics markers in pancreatic and colorectal cancers
  • Biology of ALK-positive tumours

Recent achievements

In 2014, the group was involved in four EU-applications. We published 20 papers in peer-review journals, and filed one DOFI. We published miRNA-data on lung adenocarcinomas, identifying miRNA-signatures for EGFR-mutated samples, in addition to a miRNA with prognostic impact. We published molecular signatures of mRNA and miRNA as prognostic markers in pancreatic cancer, and plasma miRNAs predicting clinical outcome in colorectal cancer. We published data on methylation changes during radiotherapy of breast cancers, influencing therapy effect.

We arranged a regional lung cancer meeting with appr 100 participants. We have had talks at national and international meetings, and are PIs on several translational and clinical studies. Currently 17 clinical studies for lung cancer patients are ongoing. 

Kure's project group: Translational studies with a special focus on pancreatic cancer


Åslaug Hellands project group:

Translational studies with a special focus on lung cancer



The outcome of lung cancer is worse than most other cancers. Early diagnosis is imperative for improving prognosis. There is therefore a desperate need for improved diagnostics and better treatment in these cancers. Research aiming at understanding and detecting cancer development and metastatic dissemination at an earlier stage might have a great impact on overall survival for this large group of patients.

This study will shed light on the biology underlying the clinical differences in prognosis, by using recently developed technology and material from more than 700 lung cancer patients in different clinical stages, and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as controls. Identification of blood-borne markers of lung cancer disease, and increasing the knowledge about the inherent malignant potential in each tumour, is a prerequisite for more personalised treatment.

This is a prospective observational study involving lung cancer patients in different stages and controls with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


  • Early detection: Identify RNA / MiRNA expression profiles in blood different between patients with COPD and lung cancer (Blood samples from pts with COPD, lung cancer patients in different stages)
  • Signatures of micrometastatic disease: Identify genetic profiles in primary tumour, lymph nodes and in blood samples associated with progression / metastatic disease (comparing operated patients with and without relapse)
  • Increase understanding: Identify pathway-characteristics (modules) in tumours which have metastasised
  • Putative targets for therapy: Identify integrated molecular characteristics (proteins, DNA characteristics, RNA expression patterns) involved in progression
  • Validate clinical importance: To validate these data by using different approaches, including comparing these with results from pre-clinical cell culture models.