23. juni 2015

2 BRIC researchers awarded Sapere Aude grants


Two researchers from BRIC, UCPH have received grants from the Danish Council for Independent Research’s prestigious career program Sapere Aude. Group leader, Professor Anders H. Lund has received a Top Researcher Grant for his research in long non-coding RNA’s in cancer Group Leader, Associate Professor Jesper B. Andersen has received a Research Leader Grant for his translational research in liver and biliary tract cancers.

I want to congratulate Anders and Jesper on receiving these grants which will give them the opportunity to consolidate their research in the international elite, says Director of BRIC, Professor Kristian Helin with a happy smile.

Non-coding RNA: a new frontier in genetic research

When researchers succeeded in sequencing the human genome – the total amount of human genetic material or DNA, it became clear, that scientists could only account for the function of a small fraction of it.  Our DNA contains the complete blueprint or code for our development and all bodily functions. In order to translate this code into action, the DNA must constantly transcribe parts of itself into so called RNA molecules. Scientists can determine the function of about 2% of the genetic material, which is translated into proteins and nearly all biomedical scientific literature to date have dealt with these 2%. But what functions do the RNA molecules produced by the remaining 98% of the human genetic material carry out? That question constitutes the starting point of the research in Anders H. Lund’s laboratory at BRIC.

 - We still know very little about the so-called non-coding RNA molecules and the role they play in normal development and in development of disease. We have established that the long non-coding RNA molecules are found in different quantities in cancerous tissue than in healthy tissue. In this research project, we investigate which long non-coding RNA molecules are important for the development of disease, we unveil their mechanism of action in our cells, and we point out non-coding RNA molecules that can be used in new forms of cancer treatment, says Anders H. Lund.

While researchers have studied protein-coding genes for decades, and have established robust methods and techniques, non-coding RNA constitutes a young research field with much basic knowledge and experimental methods still missing.

 - In many ways, we are venturing into unknown territory. But new research fields also offer new perspectives and possibilities to obtain new biological insight. I expect, that the study of the 98% of the genome will provide us with a lot of new knowledge about basic biology, about how the body develops and functions, and about what goes wrong in e.g. cancers, says Anders H. Lund

From bench to bedside: translational research in liver cancers

Liver and biliary tract cancers are among the most rapidly growing forms of cancer. In Europe, the number of patients has more than doubled during the last decade, and on a global scale the disease affects more than 1 million patients. Biliary tract cancer makes up about 10% of the cases and is one of the cancers that are hardest to treat. This results in a very poor prognosis, and despite of treatment only 5% are still alive after 5 years. These statistics are the driving force behind Jesper B. Andersen’s research. By examining the genomes of patient in large cohorts his team aims to identify the key causative mutations, which results in “errors” and leads to the disease. Jesper B Andersen’s research is focused on advancing earlier diagnosis, understanding the cause of drug resistance to identify more effective forms of treatment and determine which cancer cells spread.

 - When so many patients today do not respond to treatment, it is partly because of the fact that cancers grow and develop very differently from one patient to another. By understanding the genetic changes which lies behind the tumor growth, we will gain a better understanding of why the disease occurred and we will thereby have taken the first step towards being able to predict resistance to therapy, avoid relapse and to customize treatment. Better methods of selecting patients for the right treatment will advance drug efficacy, and as a result improve clinical outcome. At the same time, we spare patients from going through an ineffective treatment with severe side effects, and high cost to our public healthcare system, says Jesper B. Andersen

Jesper B. Andersen’s research constitutes patient-oriented or translational research. The research takes place in the laboratory and aims at a basic scientific understanding of the mechanisms behind the development of liver and biliary tract cancers. But importantly clinical collaborators in Denmark and abroad are affiliated to the research project, so the results can be easily transferred into medical practice


Anders H. Lund: anders.lund@bric.ku.dk, Phone: 0045 3532 5657
Jesper Andersen: jesper.andersen@bric.ku.dk, Phone: 0045 3532 5834
Communications officer Anne Rahbek-Damm: anne.rahbek@bric.ku.dk, Phone 0045 21 28 85 41