In Norway, more than 35,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2020, and almost 11,000 died of the disease. 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.
In our new National Centre for Clinical Cancer Research, MATRIX, we aim to improve survival and quality of life for patients with "hard-to-treat" cancers.
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.
To improve patient outcomes, one research focus will be 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.
A major aim is to perform more clinical studies in Norway. We have already established a national network including hospitals with a cancer department and will support hospitals treating patients in MATRIX clinical studies. Patient-centred care is also central in the clinical studies. Patient-reported symptoms and preferences will be systematically assessed in novel and specifically designed digital care pathways, also incorporating decision support systems.
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.