The year 2020 at Dept Molecular Oncology
In a year of home office and reduced lab activity due to COVID 19 restrictions, our labs have managed to keep up with our main activities, in line with the Hospital policy. We are pleased to see a continuation in the upward trajectory of citations, h-index and impact factor of the journals in which we publish. In 2020 we published fifteen papers registered in PubMed, including 93% with 1st and/or last authors from our department, and an average and median impact factor of 9.4 and 6.2, respectively.
Selected highlights from 2020:
In the largest study of ex vivo functional profiling in the context of tumor heterogeneity published so far, we showed that the degree of intra-patient pharmacotranscriptomic heterogeneity among patient-derived organoids of metastatic colorectal cancer is modest (Bruun et al., Clin Cancer Res 2020). For clinical translation of this ex vivo drug screening platform, and to investigate its potential to guide experimental therapies for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, we reached a milestone by getting national approvals for an intervention trial that will start patient inclusion in 2021.
Pre-clinical investigation showed a rationale for repurposing of PARP inhibitors to a small subgroup of colorectal cancers. Drug sensitivity was dependent on wild-type TP53 activity, and TP53-mediated suppression of RAD51 was identified as a possible mechanism of action for synthetic lethality between homologous recombination deficiency and PARP inhibition (Smeby et al., EBioMed 2020).
Following the initial study pinpointing exceptional molecular heterogeneity among primary lesions in the prostate (Løvf et al., Eur Urol 2019), we have showed that the prognostic biomarker SChLAP1 is also heterogeneously expressed among lesions, and that the prognostic value is significantly improved when heterogeneity is taken into consideration (Kidd et al., unpublished). Milestones in research resource-development were reached with the completion of a heterogeneity-TMA consisting of more than 3000 lesions from 571 prostatectomies, and collection of >18 700 diagnostic PSA measurements from the ten-year follow-up period after the prostatectomies.
We started patient inclusion in the national bladder cancer study at all contributing hospitals, to evaluate the clinical utility of an epigenetic biomarker-based urine test for patient surveillance. In a Danish prospective series urine samples from a few hundred patients with gross hematuria the “urine test” identified patients with cancer with an accuracy of >90% (Pharo et al., submitted).
Five academic degrees were completed. Two MDs defended their PhDs on digital platforms at the Institute for Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo: Jørgen Smeby defended his thesis entitled “Molecular subtype-dependent impact of driver mutations in colorectal cancer”; and Tuva Høst Brunsell defended “ Heterogeneity of prognostic biomarkers in colorectal liver metastases”. The candidates are pursuing medical specialist training in oncology and molecular pathology, respectively. Three students completed their MSc degrees at the University of Oslo, including one at Dept Informatics and two at Dept Biosciences.
A new project group in cancer informatics and led by Dr. Bjarne Johannessen was established. We have welcomed five new employees to the department , including three bioinformaticians and two molecular biologists. Assoc. professor Anita Sveen was awarded the Researcher of the Year prize from the Institute for Cancer Research and the Radium Hospital legacy. (Covered in “Dagens Medisin”, Dec 16, 2020, NRK and hospital news channels)
More than 75% of our budget is dependent on external grants, and we are grateful to all our funding sources. This year we received new grants from the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority and the Norwegian Cancer Society. As the core lab of a new national clinical consortium, we have also entered a new and promising research program on esophageal cancer. This malignancy is associated with an exceptionally poor prognosis, and early detection- and precision medicine -strategies are highly warranted.