Published: 19-04-2023 16:43 | Updated: 24-05-2023 23:00

European collaboration enhances cross-learning between healthcare and research – raises hopes for cancer patients

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Close on 500 colleagues in the cancer field from Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet gathered in Aula Medica during this year’s Karolinska CCC conference on 30–31 March. Also attending were Sahlgrenska CCC and Skåne CCC.

With over 123 members, Karolinska CCC is one of the largest players in the Organisation of European Cancer  Institutes (OECI) and  at the forefront of advanced care and cancer research. Simon Oberst, chairperson of the Accreditation and Designation Board of the OECI, opened the conference with the message “The EU needs your expertise”.

Over the two days of the conference, examples were given of what is possible today and what will be possible in the future using such advanced techniques as precision medicine, stem cells and AI-aided diagnostic imaging. Also on the programme were EU projects on the organised screening of prostate cancer and research, and new methods in child cancer.

Patrik Rossi
Patrik Rossi. Photo: Stefan Zimmerman

All in all, the conference exhibited the collaboration and capacity that exists at Karolinska Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

“Stockholm has the country’s highest cancer survival rate and the number of patients involved in clinical studies has risen, despite the pandemic,” says Patrik Rossi, chairperson of the Karolinska CCC board. “We currently have approximately 25 per cent of our patients in clinical studies, but we’re not satisfied. We want to give everyone the opportunity to be involved.”

He also talked about the healthcare experiences of cancer patients, more of whom report being satisfied with the carers’ professional demeanour with them; however, he also pointed out that there is room for improvement – and that this is very much a matter of collaboration.

“This conference is part of the network building we are involved in with the other Comprehensive Cancer centres and university hospitals in Sweden and the Nordic and Baltic regions,” he said.

Elias Arnér
Elias Arnér. Photo: Stefan Zimmerman

The challenge for Karolinska CCC is to increase and improve the interaction between the healthcare sector and the 350-plus research groups active in cancer at KI. For example, there needs to be greater interaction to ensure faster implementation and greater learning between everyday care practice and research.

“We need to focus on the objective, namely to improve cancer care in the interests of the patients and of prevention,” said Elias Arnér, vice-director of Cancer Research KI. “Everyone working in the field of cancer at KI and Karolinska University Hospital have the same objectives.”

The next cancer conference will be on 9 May 2023, when Sweden’s three Comprehensive Cancer centres and the Swedish Cancer Society invite almost 200 delegates from Europe, including researchers, politicians and decision-makers, to “Cancer, equality and Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan”. The results of two projects initiated by Karolinska CCC under France’s EU presidency in 2022 will also be presented.

Anna Nilsson och Pernilla Grillner
Anna Nilsson och Pernilla Grillner. Photo: Stefan Zimmerman

Child cancer: a new field for Karolinska CCC

Karolinska CCC now includes child cancer. At this year’s Karolinska CCC conference on 30–31 March, Pernilla Grillner, head of child cancer care, and Anna Nilsson, director of the Paediatric Oncology division at KI presented different projects being conducted in the field of child cancer.

Carina Rinaldo
Carina Rinaldo. Photo: Stefan Zimmerman

Carina Rinaldo, doctoral student at KI talked about her study of children and adolescents who donated stem cells to their seriously ill siblings via bone marrow transplantation. The method has been used for over 40 years in cases where traditional treatments have proved fruitless. However, the method is surrounded by ethical questions, as a whole family is involved when a child falls ill with cancer. 

Some 350 children are diagnosed with some form of cancer every year. Survival has risen significantly over the past few years and precision medicine raises hopes that this number will increase. The discovery of predisposition through tumour genetics and clinical genetics makes for more reliable diagnoses. 

“I’ve seen cases where we’ve been very close to discontinuing treatment but where gene sequencing through GMS (Genomic Medicine Sweden) has enabled us to direct treatment to new, more specific targets and prolong a child’s life,” said Tony Frisk, pediatric oncologist and research affiliated to KI.