10 February 2020

PTH - Towards personalized medicine

Personalized medicine

With a significant grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation awarded in 2017 to start the DanStem-affiliated PTH program, Professors Kirsten Grønbæk from the Department of Hematology (Rigshospitalet), Bo Porse from the Finsen Laboratory (Rigshospitalet) and Kristian Helin from BRIC at the University of Copenhagen, scientists and clinicians are now able to join forces to improve treatment for blood cancer patients.

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Towards personalized medicine for patients from all over the country

Located at Rigshospitalet and at BRIC, DanStem-affiliated scientists from The Program for Translational Hematology (PTH) have established an advanced laboratory where they can quickly test an entire drug panel on primary patient material.  “We can now use a battery of drugs to see which works on cells from a particular  patient, and then start to predict how a given treatment will work in real life. It is a unique concept that has enormous potential and is already starting to guide patient treatment", says Bo Porse. "Thanks to the Clinical Academic Group in Blood Cancer and an additional grant from the Danish Cancer Society , we have now joined forces in a national project so these facilities will  be for the benefit of patients across Denmark”, says Kirsten Grønbæk.

Via a generous grant from Novo Nordisk Foundation, six strong research groups established their labs, hiring more than 25 PhD students, researchers, laboratories, coordinators and assistants. The grant is spent on gene sequencing and patient analysis, as well as on identifying treatment goals relevant to patients.

Clinic and laboratory have moved closer together

“With this grant, we have strengthened our collaborations between the clinic and the basic laboratory research. This means that we, the basic researchers, are addressing real clinical problems, the solution of which have the potential to help patients in the future”, says Bo Porse.

“We spend a great deal of time and resources on mapping the genetics of patient samples in the clinic, and to find relevant clinical issue to address in our research. Basic scientists are dealing with lab animals, testing treatment on mice models, and this collaboration between scientists and clinicians will help us to better understand how we can complement our knowledge in order to provide solutions for the patients”, Kirsten Grønbæk  continues.

The PTH team, from left: Krister Wennerberg, Kyoung-Jae Won, Kim Theilgaard-Mönch, Kirsten Grønbæk, Bo Porse and Kristian Helin

Personalized medicine is closer

The PTH program was set up to improve treatments for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) - and in the long run for the benefit of  patients with other hematological cancers. The goal is to be able to offer tailor-made treatment - so-called personalized medicine – suited specifically to the needs of the individual patient. The chemotherapy used today can remove the vast majority of the cancer cells of the patient, but small populations of so-called cancer stem cells are frequently chemotherapy resistant and often cause recurrence of the disease.

“We have only seen the beginning of what the research in the PTH program could entail. The progress we have made will not turn into a drug tomorrow. However, with a group of talented people and resources we have established an advanced center for translational hematological research and built infrastructure that will benefit our research for many years to come”, says Bo Porse.

"There are regulatory restrictions and various data processing agreements that can slow down the project. There are some requirements we will have to meet, but we have established a framework to provide patients with better future treatment,” says Kirsten Grønbæk.

See more information about the PTH program at DanStem