Is the cure for cancer inside you? This is cancer researcher and entrepreneur Carl Borrebaeck´s favourite headline from the news on immunotherapy. He is spearheading this game changing field in a collaboration, L2 Cancer Bridge, together with other world class researchers to explore cutting edge therapeutic strategies for cancer. In L2 Cancer Bridge, researchers at Lund University, seated at Medicon Village, are joining forces with Swiss Cancer Centre Leman, shortly seated at AGORA.
- AGORA is the new melting pot in Lausanne for basic researchers and clinicians. We have the critical mass to bring ideas from bench to bedside, explains an enthusiastic Douglas Hanahan, Co-Director at Swiss Cancer Centre Leman (SCCL), a multi-institutional consortium of universities and hospitals in Western Switzerland.
The teams at Lund University and at the Swiss Cancer Centre Leman draw on the expertise at their respective sites to explore novel therapeutic strategies. And a new building, the AGORA translational cancer research facility, is designed to drive work at the frontiers of cancer treatment.
Design principles fosters interaction
Basic cancer researchers, bioengineers, and clinical researchers are starting to move into the AGORA. The interdisciplinary, multi-institutional building will house competencies also from other fields. Biocomputation, precision diagnostics, nuclear medicine, and radiation oncology to name a few. The list can be made very long.
- We need integrated dream teams and we have competence all the way from discovery through tech to the clinical impact, explains Douglas Hanahan. The design principle is to bring together people with complimentary expertise.
Open stairwells, open offices, open labs. And common rooms. These are elements of the design principle. Offices and labs are designed in clusters, so everybody would be bumping into each other. And cancer researchers will sit next to clinical researcher or bioengineers – all to foster collaboration and interaction.
Close collaboration with clinicians leads to personalised medicine
The benefit for patients with cancer is particularly clear in view of the collaboration with the Lausanne University’s Hospital across the street. The clinicians at the hospital send patients´ tumour samples to the researchers at AGORA, who then identify the molecular traits, such as tumour antigens. These traits serve much like a fingerprint. Once identified, the teams can advise on and, in some cases, deliver a treatment strategy to the clinicians – to find the best targeted therapy for the particular tumour fingerprint.
One strategy is a form of immunotherapy, where patients are treated with cell therapies that recognize parts of the tumour fingerprint. These therapies contain the patient´s T-cells, the ninja warriors of the immune system. Other strategies seek to disrupt faulty signalling pathways that drive tumour growth, or use antibodies to awaken and strengthen a patient’s natural immune response.
These are fields where the collaboration within L2 Cancer Bridge comes into play. The Lund researchers have pioneered this field and they have started to map tumour fingerprints – as have their colleagues in Lausanne. And L2 Cancer Bridge shows promising findings.
- We are seeing some very fascinating new methods and I was very enthusiastic about it. The results are good news for my children and grandchildren, says Göran Grosskopf chair of the board at Medicon Village´s owner foundation, Mats Paulsson Foundation for Research, Innovation and Societal Development.
Göran Grosskopf recently visited AGORA to be inspired by their set up together with a delegation including renowned cancer researcher Carl Borrebaeck, seated at Medicon Village. Carl Borrebaeck is also the founder or co-founder of four life science companies, like Immunovia, which is developing the first commercial test for pancreatic cancer.
Proximity paves the way for new treatment options
To attack a tumour, T-cells need to be educated and trained. And they need to be manufactured. This is not without complication. It requires a GMP (good manufacturing practice) facility, which is a certified and heavily regulated lab.
Notably, a new GMP facility lies less than ten minutes from the AGORA. Once the T-cells have been manufactured, they are brought back to the clinic and the patient is treated with their own T-cells.
The proximity of the GMP facility and the hospital, along with the close collaboration within and across the sites in Lund and Lausanne supports in tailoring the patient´s treatment strategies.
- We are hoping that it will be possible to really test fly new therapeutic strategies. We can expedite the process of testing combinatorial therapies by having oncologists in close communication and collaboration with immune-engineers and tumour immunologists, explains Douglas Hanahan.
Carl Borrebaeck agrees on the importance of collaborating with a clinic.
- The development of new advanced therapies and precision diagnostic demands a close collaboration between the clinic and research. Without the clinical collaboration the, so called, intended use can´t be defined. And with no access to tumour material or blood and tissue, the development is challenged and delayed. This became very clear during our development of the first test to diagnose early pancreatic cancer. This would not have been possible without our close collaboration with Danish and American clinics, Carl Borrebaeck, professor and Director of CREATE Health translational Cancer Centre, Lund University, points out.
By Tanja Jensen, Science Writer
Medicon Valley Alliance R&D Network – enhancing collaboration
Do you want to learn more about enhancing collaboration and how we can promote collaboration between preclinical and clinical researchers to make sure that excellent research goes the whole way and turns into successful innovations for the benefit of patients and society?
Then join the event Medicon Valley Alliance R&D Network – enhancing collaboration- at Medicon Village!
When? 04 Dec 2018, 4-6 PM
Where? Auditorium, Medicon Village
Why? Full program and sign up
Facts about L2 Cancer Bridge
L2 Cancer Bridge is a cross-disciplinary collaboration between cancer researchers at Lund University, seated at Medicon Village and the Swiss Cancer Centre of Léman.
The collaboration comprises three branches.
- This branch is related to projects on breast cancer. The aim is twofold – to identify signalling pathways crucial in the most aggressive breast cancer type and to block the development of resistance to hormone therapy.
- This branch is related to projects on tumour immunology. It focuses on new targets of cells with impact on the immune system. The aim is to identify new targets either for creating, so called, CAR-T cells (artificial white blood cells engineered to give them an ability to recognize cancer antigens) or, to kick-start the warriors (T cells) of the immune system.
- This branch involves a game-changing new technology for radio-oncology developed in Lausanne. An intense dose of radiation is focussed on a tumour and delivered in milliseconds – in a flash – and kills cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.