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Oncology on the agenda

Bahija Jallal and Gregory Simon

The summer started with exciting partnering opportunities in San Diego and ended with the return of a very popular event in Stockholm, both with the oncology challenge in focus.

On June 27th it was time for the 6th annual International Cancer Cluster Showcase (ICCS). The event was born back in 2011 in Washington DC, during the BIO International Convention. International cluster managers and representatives from the oncology field in Boston, Toulouse and Oslo met during a networking reception and agreed to team up for a joint initiative to expose their emerging oncology innovators to the global oncology community gathering at BIO. This idea matured in a stimulating and dynamic annual meeting featuring oncology innovators from several North American and European innovation hubs, reports Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Cutting edge innovations

During this year’s event around 200 delegates learned about exciting partnering opportunities pitched by 24 companies from 9 innovation hubs. Oslo Cancer Cluster was represented by its member companies Oncoimmunity and Nordic Nanovector. They presented their preclinical and clinical candidates for treating hematological cancers. Inven2, Norway’s largest tech transfer organization, also gave a glimpse into their growing oncology portfolio.

An overwhelming amount of cutting edge oncology innovations from leading North American and European industry clusters were presented in compact presentations, reported Oslo Cancer Cluster. Poster sessions, networking parts and a final reception allowed the participants to connect and discuss collaboration opportunities.

”I hope that the ICCS 2017 reception was as productive for the participating biotechs as the BIO reception in Washington 6 years ago was for the founders of ICCS,” said Jutta Heix, International Advisor at Oslo Cancer Cluster and coordinator for the event.

Cancer Moonshot

At the Swedish American Life Science Summit, held August 23rd to 25th in Stockholm, oncology was also in focus. Cancer Moonshot was one of the main issues and the possibilities of immunotherapy alongside more collaborations and sharing of data were highlighted as key factors to continue the fight against cancer. There to represent the Cancer Moonshot initiative was Mr. Gregory Simon, Executive Director of The Biden Cancer Initiative. Collaborations have been crucial to the Cancer Moonshot project’s success, said Simon. Collaborations with various agencies, academia and companies that have resulted in new ideas and projects that, as Gregory Simon put it, probably never would have come up. The lack of shared data and information between these institutions has been a crucial matter, Simon argued. “Despite the millions of scientists, tools, treatments and strategies we have developed over the years, there is still one critical thing that hasn’t changed. We still share data in the same way as we did in the 1950s. Vital information is to a great extent shared in person and there is a culture of holding back data.”

Challenges for the future

Dr. Carl Borrebaeck, Professor and Director at CREATE Health Cancer Center, gave insight into what’s on in cancer research. The good news, as Borrebaeck put it, is what the past decades of work has resulted in. Namely, vastly improved knowledge about not only cancer types but more specific details on various tumors. The extended knowledge and improved tools have increased the number of survivors among cancer patients. Nevertheless, cancer keeps claiming more lives. When it comes to the development of treatment methods, he emphasized the paradigm shift immunotherapy has meant in cancer treatment. Precision diagnostics will be another vital tool, as “early diagnosis and detection could save millions of lives”. Digital oncology, where patients can be more involved, also presents itself as a way towards increased survival rates.

The presentations were rounded off by a panel discussion on the breakthrough challenges for Cancer Moonshot. The panel consisted of Dr. Bahija Jallal, Head of MedImmune and Executive Vice President at AstraZeneca, Mr. Gregory Simon, Dr. Jonas Bergh, Professor in Oncology and Director of the Strategic Research Program in Cancer, KI and Dr. Rex Yung, Lung Cancer Specialist at the Great Baltimore Medical Center. The progress that has been made thus far in cancer research needs to be acknowledged, informed Dr. Bahija Jallal, pointing to the development within targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

“The advancement that has been made in immunotherapy I never thought would have happened in my lifetime. We really need to recognize the paradigm shift of cancer treatments and what immunotherapy has done when it comes to, for example, melanoma patients. Nevertheless, we cannot be satisfied yet. The marathon to tackle cancer is just getting started.”

Dr. Jallal also highlighted the need for more longitudinal studies to find out more about cancer triggers and early detection to make a difference for patients. Dr. Rex Yung emphasized the importance of engaging patients, families and health care communities to a larger extent. In order to do so, there needs to be an improvement when it comes to reaching out with information.

“Access to both care and knowledge must be made in an accessible and readable way for people. Data sharing in this new digital era will be crucial to continue the fight against cancer.”

Yung pointed out some important factors; knowledge among medical caregivers, patients and family, a better fluency in communication, consumer understanding and satisfaction and last but not least the dimension of time for primary care practitioners, enabling them to have enough time to explain the situation to a full extent to patients.

Photo of Bahija Jallal and Gregory Simon, SALSS: August Dellert

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