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Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO

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CCBIO Annual Report

Read CCBIO's Annual Reports!

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CCBIO annual report covers from 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

CCBIO Annual Report 2016:

Paper version as pdf.

CCBIO Annual Report 2015:

Paper version as pdf.

Digital version including video.

CCBIO Annual Report 2014:

Paper version as pdf.

CCBIO Annual Report 2013:

Paper version as pdf.

Director's comments 2016

In the beginning of 2016, CCBIO was struck by the tragic loss of Professor Helga B. Salvesen, group leader and co-director of our center. During the last years, Helga established a strong and prolific research group at the Department of Clinical Science (UiB) and the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics (Helse Bergen), with a focus on genetic and protein biomarkers in gynecologic cancers. She made important contributions in this field and received international recognition. At the same time, Helga was a dedicated scientist and mentor with high standards and a remarkable working capacity, in addition to being a warm and caring person. The CCBIO family, with all her colleagues and friends, will miss her. She leaves behind an impressive and inspiring legacy.

CCBIO is now moving steadily from the establishing phase to meet a range of challenges in the ambitious areas of precision medicine. The biomarker field is an important nexus between basic studies and the open range of diagnostic and therapeutic advancement, including initiatives by “movers and shakers” with biomedical expertise to big pharma representatives and politicians. The recent PD-L1 story is just one national example. Time will tell whether these processes can speed up and become more transparent and even more predictable and precise.

At the conclusion of 2016, CCBIO´s trajectory is very promising. Within the center, several projects are becoming more mature, with increasing international collaboration and interaction. We are actively recruiting younger faculty members to strengthen our future potential. In medical oncology, immunotherapy is moving centre stage, and we recently launched an investigator-based clinical trial of metastatic melanoma, using anti-Axl therapy (BGB324) developed by our collaborator BerGenBio, in combination with immunotherapy. The study is based on the emerging role of Axl regulation for immune evasion. This clinical trial includes an ambitious program of biomarker analyses at baseline and throughout treatment and follow-up, as well as economic profiling, thus highlighting the cost-effectiveness and societal perspectives. At present, Axl related projects range from basic discovery studies to clinical application, with extensive collaboration w ithin CCBIO. I n other areas, studies on matrix and vascular biology are going forward, as well as projects on drug repurposing. We have increased the use of mass cytometry and proteomics profiling to account for complexity in biomarker expression patterns, and liquid biomarker projects are being further developed.

We are continuously trying to enrich and reinvent our activities to create an inspiring science culture. The CCBIO Research School for Cancer Studies is an important tool, with basic courses, seminars, junior scientist symposia and our annual international symposium. As two other examples, CCBIO last year initiated a Nordic biomarker network with focus on tissue analysis, and we organized the first Nordic meeting on translational pathology. Also, we co-organized a meeting in Bergen with Oslo Cancer Cluster on the topic of drug repurposing.

Inspiration is a cornerstone in scientific work, and we try to stimulate our colleagues to widen the perspective and search for ideas and inputs across all research areas, and even outside the fields of science.

Lars A. Akslen

Director's comments 2015

During 2015, CCBIO as a research center and a newly established organization across several departments has gained significant momentum. The challenge in today’s basic and translational cancer research is huge. There are a lot of activities going on in different areas, and we have much information on how cancers develop and progress. However, there is a gap in the transfer of knowledge to practical medicine. This phase is very time-consuming, with complex regulatory mechanisms and long-lasting clinical trials of new treatments as part of today’s set-up. Biomarkers have yet to be fully included in trial design.

The development of a stimulating and encouraging scientific environment is an important pathway towards excellence. The establishment of the CCBIO Research School for Cancer Studies is crucial in this context. In 2015, a full program of integrated courses and seminars was conducted on various topics: Matrix biology; Cancer Research: Ethical,  economic and Social Aspects; Biomarkers and Tumor Biology in Clinical Practice; Methods in Cancer Biomarker Research; CCBIO Junior Scientist Symposium (JUSS); monthly research seminars with external visitors, and the CCBIO Annual Symposium. The half-day JUSS meetings are arranged four times a year, and these are organized by our postdocs. This has been a successful series with a suitable format for training of our young investigators in how to present data, discuss the findings, and chair scientific meetings.

Another important component of CCBIO is our many international collaborations and networks, allowing for scientific input in different areas and mobility of students as well as faculty. We have during 2015 continued our recruitment of international collaborators and advisors who are hired in part-time positions. In 2016, this network will be complete with 15 positions. Of further importance, CCBIO in 2015 received an INTPART grant from SIU and RCN to increase our international efforts towards education, as an integrated part of the research school.

Several promising research projects are now running in different teams, with increased collaboration and networking within CCBIO itself. A key area has been to better understand how tumor cells interact with and influence their surrounding microenvironment and the multiple facets of tumor plasticity. The enormous challenge in our field is to not only integrate the vast amount of information into a “unifying model of cancer biology”, but also to move this knowledge towards clinical practice without delay. We believe that smart use of individual or complex biomarkers is a necessary and cost-effective tool.

Scientific work is challenging, often difficult, and very time-consuming, but also a lot of fun. It is important to ask “stupid” and “out-of-the-box” questions all the time, and try to answer them. Unexpected findings should be followed up on, these might represent the most novel observations. And not the least, curiosity and excitement are two of the most striking hallmarks of excellence.

Lars A. Akslen

 

(See the report as attachment below.)

 

Director's comments 2014

Throughout 2014, CCBIO completed its first phase of recruitment, and many enthusiastic PhD students and postdoctoral fellows are in place and have initiated their work in different research groups. Basic studies are being performed, especially focusing on how tumor cells interact with the surrounding microenvironment, by epithelialmesenchymal transition, plasticity programs, angiogenesis induction and matrix dynamics, leading to the initiation of metastatic spread. Different classes of biomarkers and their clinico-pathologic correlations are being explored, such as genetic markers, gene expression mining and profiling, and tissue based protein marker studies. As an example of implementation studies, the aim of the multicenter MoMaTEC projects on integrated biomarker profiling of endometrial cancer is to perform stratified surgery based on validated biomarkers and imaging data.


One of the goals for CCBIO is to push experimental therapy and diagnostics for our patients. We are facing significant and complex challenges in how to attack metastasizing tumors. Recent papers support the positive responses to immunological checkpoint blockers, and studies with multiple indications are in preparation. CCBIO is participating in this effort by planning substudies with novel technologies like single cell analysis of immunophenotype and intracellular signaling of patient immune cells. This is performed in collaboration with the Clinical Trials Unit at Haukeland University Hospital. During 2014, CCBIO investigators have headed directly into the immunotherapy domain by teaming up with Bergen Technology Transfer Office and angel investors. The first patients will be treated using dendritic cell based therapy after cryoablation
of prostate cancer tissue in early 2015. In addition, the first AXL inhibitor, BGB324 from BerGenBio, entered a Phase I trial in Bergen, indicating a new era in biomedical research in our region, with CCBIO investigators participating. Through a five-year grant on liquid biopsies, various technologies for circulating cells and DNA will be explored in the setting of clinical trials.


During 2014, the CCBIO Research School for Cancer Studies was established, with several key courses, monthly research seminars, a junior scientist symposium (four times each year) and the CCBIO Annual Symposium as integrated parts. This program of educational and networking activities has been well received. Currently, CCBIO is now in the process of recruiting a team of international key collaborators in affiliated positions. This will be important to strengthen our research programs and excellence profile. Based on these efforts, 2015 will be an exciting year.

Lars A. Akslen

 

(See the report as attachment below.)

Director's comments 2013

We have had a busy start-up period at CCBIO, with important research data published in high-impact journals, and an international recruitment process. We have laid the fundament for our research school, and we’ve done multiple media appearances. 

On November 12, 2012, the Research Council of Norway officially announced that the Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO was awarded a Norwegian Centre of Excellence. This completed 19 rewarding months of prequalification proposals and applications at different levels. Nine founding teams in the field of translational cancer research, working together with three associated groups in bioinformatics, economy and ethics, were excited to receive this stimulating challenge. The centre was opened by RCN Director Arvid Hallén on May 30, 2013, during the 1st CCBIO Symposium.

The centre has a bold aim: to improve biological understanding, early diagnosis of and treatment of cancer, by using novel biomarkers. This is a major challenge in todays personalized medicine. The complexity of cancers, in space and time, is an obstacle for effective therapy, combined with the many escape mechanisms of progressing tumors. For the task to be successful, we will focus on targeted projects across model studies (Program 1), biomarker discovery and validation (Program 2), and clinical studies (Program 3).

We have established a Research School for Cancer Studies aimed for young recruits and future leaders, in addition to research seminars, annual symposia, and active international collaboration and networking. Taking advice from the CCBIO Council (local) and the CCBIO Scientific Advisory Board (Carl-Henrik Heldin, Uppsala; Ate van der Zee, Groningen; Bruce Zetter, Boston), we hope to fulfill our goals in the coming years and make a difference in the war against cancer.

Lars A. Akslen

 

(See the report as attachment below.)