Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO

Cancer research grant to PhD Candidate Christiane H. Gjerde

Christiane Helgestad Gjerde, PhD candidate in the Bjørge and McCormack groups at CCBIO and the Department of Clinical Science, was awarded with the Kolbjørn Brambani Cancer Research Grant 2022 at the Onkologisk Forum meeting November 17.

Photo of a slide of Christiane's presentaion and her on the stage giving a talk.
Christiane giving the award talk at the Onkologisk Forum meeting November 17, 2022.
CCBIO/Christiane H. Gjerde

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The Kolbjørn Brambani Cancer Research Grant was awarded for the first time in 2017, and supports cancer research, often regarding cancers of children and young people. The grant is targeted towards young medical professionals during their PhD work or for continued research work after completion of their PhD.

This year’s grant of NOK 400 000 was split between two deserving candidates with NOK 200 000 each. 

More time for her PhD work

Christiane is very happy and grateful to receive her part. 

«This grant gives me the opportunity to extend my fellowship period,” she explains. “Experimental work involving the collection of patient materials is time-consuming, and therefore I greatly appreciate this opportunity to fully complete my doctorate work,” she says.

Need for better preclinical models of ovarian cancer

Preclinical models are crucial for translational ovarian cancer research. Cell lines, organoids, and xenografts all recapitulate key features of high grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC), the most common and most aggressive subtype of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). The selection of appropriate context-specific models is essential to address the various experimental settings. 

Organoids are 3D tissue cultures derived from stem cells and can be established from normal and malignant tissues. Traditionally an artificial matrix, called Matrigel, is used to culture organoids. The protein composition and structure of Matrigel is different from what is seen in human tissues. Recently, decellularized ECM (dECM) scaffolds isolated from porcine small intestine have been used to generate lung and colorectal cancer organoids. These models have proved useful in studying drug efficacy.

Develop a tailored and better suited organoid model

The aim of Christiane’s project is to develop an organoid platform for EOC in vitro using peritoneal dECM scaffolds and establish this model in vivo in a xenograft mouse model. The group aims to establish a model that better represents the complex tumor microenvironment (TME) of EOC. The new models will have broad applicability and represent a platform to identify biomarker-enrichment strategies that permit improved patient selection when choosing therapy for HGSOC and other solid tumors. Further, the models can potentially be used to study mechanisms of therapy resistance and identify strategies to overcome this.

A protocol for decellularization of peritoneum to generate a peritoneal dECM matrix (PerMa) has been developed and validated. Cell cultures have been established on PerMa using EOC and fibroblast cell lines, and the model has been extensively characterized. The group has now started with the establishment of patient-derived organoids (PDOs) on PerMa.

We look forward to the results of Christiane’s doctorate work towards the beginning of 2024.