Almost 37 000 patients were diagnosed with cancer in Norway in 2021, and almost 11,000 died of the disease. Most patients recover, but cancer is still the number one death cause in Norway. Many cancer patients are cured, either with surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination, however some cannot be cured. There has been a substantial improvement in the prognosis of many cancers, given the significant development in cancer diagnostics, treatment, and follow-up. Many patients live substantially longer, but also experience long-term side effects from the treatment or the disease.
MATRIX, the Norwegian Centre for Clinical Cancer Research, is a national research centre with an over-all ambition to help patients with hard-to-treat cancers to live longer with better quality of life. In addition to survival, quality of life, maintaining functional capacity and relief from symptoms are of the utmost importance to all cancer patients, particularly so in cancers with poor prognosis. Improved methods for diagnostics and therapy as well as systematic and effective methods for symptom management and follow-up need to be developed. MATRIX will therefore implement systematic digital symptom mapping and develop new, digital patient-centred care pathways.
To improve patient outcomes, one research focus in MATRIX is to develop new diagnostic tools. This includes drug sensitivity screening, meaning treating cancer cells from the patient with different drugs, to identify the most effective ones for the specific patient. Use of liquid biopsies, in-depth analyses of proteins and other molecules will be investigated to enable individualized treatment. In addition, we will further develop and use imaging and artificial intelligence in diagnosis and treatment.
An overarching goal in MATRIX is to offer as many patients as possible treatment in a clinical study. A national network, that includes 16 hospitals with cancer departments, has been established, and The Centre will support hospitals that treat patients in MATRIX clinical trials. Patient-centred treatment is also part of the clinical studies.
The official opening of MATRIX took place at a kick-off meeting at Gardermoen 23-24 August, and the event gathered more than 70 participants from all over Norway. Since August, a Centre coordinator is also in place. Furthermore, a registration form where partners in the Centre can register new clinical studies and apply for support, opened this fall. An extended national management team have monthly, digital meetings to evaluate incoming applications. A Board has also been established with Sigbjørn Smeland, head of the cancer clinic at Oslo University Hospital, as chair. The first board meeting was held in November 2022. Furthermore, Matrix has recently launched its website, and updated information about the Centre and its activities is available here: http://www.matrix-fkb.no
In MATRIX, we will take advantage of on-going large national precision cancer medicine initiatives, the national tumor groups, the national initiatives in patient-centered care and the unique infrastructure for clinical trials to facilitate development and implementation of next generation cancer care.
Diagnostics: We will develop new diagnostic methods in molecular profiling (-omics), drug sensitivity screening, immune system characterization, PROMs and AI tools for analysis of images and clinical real-world data. Collaboration with the newly established national infrastructure for precision diagnostics will enable systematically and rapid testing of the clinical benefit of diagnostic tools in the ongoing precision medicine trial IMPRESS-Norway, which will be further developed in MATRIX.
Treatment: We will develop and test new treatment strategies in clinical trials. We will test novel combination of drugs based on newly establish diagnostic tools to overcome resistance. Integration with the newly establish Centre for Advanced Cell Therapy will allow us to test novel approaches for cell therapy.
Patient Centered Care: Experience from the ongoing precision medicine initiatives in Norway clearly shows the need for tools that ensures that patient preferences and patient communication is integrated into the treatment decision. We will therefore take advantage of ongoing research project on e-Health solutions for integrating patient preferences into the decision process.
Participation of the established large clinical trial network of MATRIX involving most hospitals in Norway with a cancer division will ensure access for patients and competence building across the country. A clinical trial engine will be established to ensure competence building (regulatory, logistics etc.) for advanced clinical trials (e.g. cell therapy) to facilitate future trial capacity and establishing Norway at the forefront of coming developments in cancer therapy.