Individualized Systems Medicine
Every third person in Finland eventually develops cancer and the incidence rates continue to increase. However, we still have incomplete understanding of the molecular complexity of human cancer. While a selection of therapies can be used successfully to treat many patients, over 90% of emerging drugs tend to fail during clinical testing, typically due to lack of efficacy. This number also reflects the poor predictive value of the current in vitro and in vivo model systems.
We believe that better prediction of cancer drug efficacies would improve and personalize patient care, help to prioritize new drugs for clinical testing, and design tailor-made drug combinations. Towards these goals, we have developed at FIMM together with other scientists and hematologists at the Helsinki University Central Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center (HUCH) Individualized Systems Medicine Grand Challenge - a novel systems medicine strategy for acute and chronic myeloid leukemia (AML/CML) (Pemovska et al., 2014, 2016), which is also applied for other leukemias and myeloma. Unlike conventional genetics -based approaches for cancer research, our strategy combines genomic profiling with direct testing of efficacies of drugs in patient-derived cells ex vivo, which provides direct validation of drug efficacies against patient-derived cells.
Using adult Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) as a model disease, we aim to: i) identify effective targeted drugs by ex-vivo drug sensitivity and resistance testing (DSRT) and to stratify AML patients based on genomic and molecular features, ii) understand novel pharmacogenomics correlation by applying state of art technologies and iii) translate these data towards precision cancer treatment. This collaboration involves Wennerberg, Heckman, and Aittokallio groups at FIMM and clinical collaborators at HUS.
In addition, our group is developing similar strategies for investigating the solid tumors, where we work with established cancer cell lines, drug-resistant model systems, patient material and tumor tissues to profile drug response and resistance as well as genetics of particular cancer. Here, our focus is in ovarian cancer and urological cancers, such as renal cancer. We are developing tissue and cell imaging technologies to find biomarkers and predict drug responses in solid tumors together with Lundin and Horvath research groups. We aim to identify the genes and signalling pathways that play a key role and could act as predictive biomarkers of drug response and resistance in cancer. In ovarian and urological cancer we aim is to apply these results together with HUCH clinicians also for the the patient's benefit.
In the beginning of 2016 we have established a new research group also at Science for Life Laboratories (SciLife Lab) and at the Department of Oncology and Pathology at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. Our two groups work closely to implement these results towards clinic.