New research group to strengthen BRIC blood cancer research – University of Copenhagen

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09 June 2017

New research group to strengthen BRIC blood cancer research

Research collaboration

An agreement between Rigshospitalet and the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences has associated Professor Kirsten Grønbæk and her research group with BRIC. Grønbæk’s research in blood cancer and her long-standing collaborative projects with BRIC researchers make the association a central link in strengthening the ties between basic science and clinical research.

​- We are very excited about our association with BRIC. It emphasizes my role in bridging the clinical research at the Department of Hematology at Rigshospitalet and the basic science at BRIC, and stimulates further translational research projects between the two institutions, says Kirsten Grønbæk.

Translational epigenetics in collaboration with BRIC

The Department of Haematology is a centre of expertise for the treatment of blood cancer diseases. Blood cancer affects the production and function of blood cells, and finding new and improved treatments is crucial since the diseases touch the lives of a large number of people. In the long run, the close collaboration with BRIC will hopefully lead to the discovery of new treatments.

Kirsten Grønbæk’s research is focused on identifying, monitoring and targeting epigenetic changes in blood cancers. Research over the past years has shown that epigenetics and genetics are not separate events in blood cancer. They entangle and profit from each other to promote leukemogenesis, and often epigenetic regulators are mutated years before a blood cancer is diagnosed. The interaction between genetics and epigenetics is particularly intriguing since drugs that reprogram aberrant epigenetic states are already available in the clinics, and many more are under development. Some of these drugs work in previously untreatable diseases like myelodysplastic syndrome, which have severe genetic changes.

- In our collaboration with the researchers at BRIC, we plan to directly test the sensitivity of patient’s cancer stem cells to a panel of cancer drugs to choose the optimal treatment of patients, to identify molecular defects in patient samples, analyze these in cell culture and mouse models and, in collaboration with biotech companies, develop new drugs to test in patients at the phase 1 unit at Rigshospitalet, says Kirsten Grønbæk.

Multiple benefits and opportunities in the future

Having both basic and clinical researchers at BRIC will greatly benefit sharing of scientific expertise and strengthen the translational aspects of blood cancer research even further.

- Connecting basic science and clinical research in collaborative projects creates strong cancer research environments and ensures that the research addresses challenges experienced in the clinic and come up with an in-depth biological understanding of the problems. This is necessary in order to develop new effective treatments, says BRIC director Kristian Helin.