Gunnar Sæter

  • Head of research and professor; MD, PhD
  • +47 22 78 14 02/ 970 31 845

August 2013

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Born: 1954.

Nationality: Norwegian.

Board Certified Speciality: Medical Oncology and Radiotherapy (1990).

Present appointment: Institute Head and Professor, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital (from August 2013).

Tel. +47-91502770 (switchboard)

Mobile +47 97031845



1979: M.D. from The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (Dublin).

July 1979 - Jan. 1980: House Officer, Internal Medicine, Aker Hospital, Oslo.

Jan. 1980 - Jan. 1981: Internship, Buskerud Central Hospital, Drammen, Norway (rotation through internal medicine, general surgery, gynaecology & obstetrics, paediatrics and neurology).

Jan. 1981 - July 1981: Internship, General Practice.

July 1981 - Dec. 1983: Senior House Officer and later Registrar, Dept. of Medical Oncology and Radiotherapy, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo (rotation within all tumour types).

Jan. 1984 - Oct. 1987: Research Fellow of The Norwegian Cancer Society at Dept. of Tissue Culture, Institute for Cancer Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo.

Project: Experimental and Human Liver Carcinogenesis.

1984-1985: Medical Advisor, Nycomed Pharma, Oslo, Norway (part time).

Oct. 1987 - July 1988: Senior Registrar, Dept. of Internal Medicine, Ullevål Hospital, Oslo.

July 1988 - Oct. 1990: Senior Registrar, Sarcoma Division, Dept. of Medical Oncology and Radiotherapy, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo.

1989: Ph. D. degree with the thesis "Cell Proliferation and Tumour Promotion in Experimental and Human Carcinogenesis" (University of Oslo).

January 1990: Board-certified specialist in Medical Oncology and Radiotherapy.

Oct. 1990 - March 2000: Consultant Medical Oncologist and Radiotherapist, Division of Sarcoma and Urogenital Cancer, Dept. of Medical Oncology and Radiotherapy, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo.

Jan. 1993 - March 2000: Division Head, Division for Sarcomas and Urogenital Cancer, Dept. of Medical Oncology and Radiotherapy, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo.

March 2000 - June 2006: Head, Department of Medical Oncology, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo.

June 2004 - June 2006: Associate Professor of Oncology, University of Oslo.

June 2006 - Jan 2009: Chief Physician and medical Director, Ulleval University Hospital, Oslo

Jan. 2009-Jan. 2010: Medical Director, MSD Norway AS, Drammen, Norway

Jan. 2010-May 2010: Regional Research Director, MSD Scandinavia

May 2010-January 2011: Regional Director of Medical Affairs for Oncology in Europe, Canada, Middle East & Africa, MSD

January 2011 - August 2013: Global Director of Scientific Affairs, Merck Oncology, Merck Inc. (MSD)

August 2013 - current appointment: Institute Head and Professor, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital


Current Position: The comprehensive cancer center at Oslo University Hospital is one of the largest cancer centers in Northern Europe and has tightly integrated basic, translational and clinical cancer research of very high standard (very good to excellent by official international evaluation). As the Head of the Institute for Cancer Research I have the senior leadership of the basic and translational research in a brand new research facility housing approx. 350 research employees. The Institute is organized in seven research sections with approx. 35 research groups, of which most have extensive collaboration with clinical oncology. The position also involves own research (sarcoma biology and clinical research), and is combined with a 20% position as Professor of Oncology at the University of Oslo.

Most recent past position: Global Director of Scientific Affairs, Merck Oncology (Jan. 2011 - Aug. 2013).

This was a headquarter position at level of Senior Director (level Executive Committee +2), reporting to the Vice President, Global Center for Scientific Affairs (scientific body across all therapeutic areas). The position has a seat in the Merck Oncology Senior Leadership Team.

Main responsibilities:

  • Management of Company interactions and collaborations with internationally leading oncology & cancer research institutions and the global scientific leaders in clinical oncology and cancer research
  • Planning, execution and chairmanship of major external scientific input into the company, including global consultation meetings for pipeline strategy, compound development and further development of approved drugs
  • Leader and chairmanship of the Oncology Investigator Initiated Study Program (through external collaborating institutions). Responsible for the definition of the areas of interest for the program and for the scientific review of submitted proposals.
  • Bridge and promote collaboration and alignment between the scientific and commercial parts of the organization
  • Secure patient focus, patient safety and medical perspective in all relevant activities.

Previous positions in Merck (MSD):

The position as Medical Director in MSD Norway (2009-2010) involved the senior leadership of all medical activities across all therapeutic areas, as well as research, regulatory affairs, compliance and pharmacovigilance. This included a considerable collaboration with The Norwegian Radium Hospital and Dept. of Oncology at UUS through the OncoNet program, and with The Norwegian Cancer Registry on the development of HPV vaccine and the effects of the HPV vaccination program on the HPV infection pattern in the population.

In this position I had 7 direct reports and the responsibility for a unit consisting of  24 people.

The position as Research Director for Scandinavia (2010) involved senior operational and strategic responsibility for all company-sponsored research projects across all therapeutic areas in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. This position involved the lead responsibility for the calibration and reorganization of all the Scandinavian research organizations following the Merck-Schering-Plough merger, and harmonization of personel, operations, routines and culture in the new organization.

In this position I had 5 direct reports (country research directors) and the responsibility for a total of 110 employees.

The position as Regional Director of Medical Affairs for Oncology (2010-2011) involved responsibility for all major research collaborations between Merck and hospitals/institutions in my region (Europe, Canada, Middle East and Africa), as well as interactions with key institutions and scientists, and a central position in forming the regional oncology strategy for the company.

Positions in University Hospital Oncology and Academia:

General aspects:

During my clinical work I have been particularly interested in the structure, cooperation and refinement of multidisciplinary teams treating cancer patients, including the vital clinical research aspects and the role of integrated laboratory and translational cancer research. The key thinking was to evolve into a Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC), and in this context I have published improvements in outcome related to patient volume, team training and organizational refinement (Saeter et al., Int J Cancer, Suppl. 13, 52, 2002 and Aksnes et al. and Acta Oncol. Scand. 45, 38-46, 2006). The success experienced by the NRH sarcoma program contributed to a re-organization of all the clinical activity in NRH into formalized multidisciplinary teams, and during my work as Head of the department of Medical Oncology I was a significant contributor in this development.

Head of the Department of Medical Oncology at NRH in Oslo (2000-2006). NRH is one of Scandinavia's leading Comprehensive Cancer Centers. The position included the senior responsibility for clinical activity, multidisciplinary team development and clinical research in the programs with medical oncology as the dominant or main developmental treatment modality (lymphoma, sarcoma, lung cancer and testicular cancer). The position was also part of the Institution's Leadership Team.

Senior consultant and Head of the NRH Sarcoma Program (1993-2000). This included development of the multidisciplinary team, clinical program and research program, as well as a total operational responsibility. The position was also associated with the scientific and clinical leadership in the Scandinavian Sarcoma Group (SSG) with substantial international collaborative scientific activity and leadership of collaborative group clinical studies and Scandinavian treatment guidelines development (please also see the section for research activity). My work in the Radium Hospital Sarcoma Program also involved the development of a comprehensive electronic institutional database containing clinical data on all sarcoma and benign bone/soft tissue tumor patients treated at Radium hospital from 1980 onwards. This database was established in collaboration with the Norwegian Cancer Registry and is continuously being updated. During my leadership of the sarcoma program NRH was appointed the National Centre of Competence for sarcomas, and the total program activity monitored in the database forms the basis of annual report from this Centre of Competence.

Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer (2006-2009) at Ulleval University Hospital, a 1200 bed institution with all disciplines within somatic medicine and psychiatry. It is a local hospital for 200 000 of Oslo's 450 000 inhabitants, and also has an array of regional hospital tasks for the South-Eastern Health Region. The most important areas of strategic importance are severe acute illness, severe traumatology and emergency capacity for major domestic and international events. The position was the CEO's lead medical advisor and involved an overall responsibility for institutional medical strategy, prioritization, structure and quality of treatment, including the institution's strategic development. The position also had a key role in planning of the merger of several key Oslo hospitals into Oslo University Hospital (see below) and had a key role in the planning and execution of health care in Norway's South-Eastern Health Region.


Jan. 1984 - Oct. 1987: Research Fellow of The Norwegian Cancer Society at Dept. of Tissue Culture, Institute for Cancer Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo.

Project: Experimental and Human Liver Carcinogenesis.

Nov. 1986 and June 1987: Guest Researcher at The National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan. Project: The Cell Biology of Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

1989: Ph. D. degree with the thesis "Cell Proliferation and Tumour Promotion in Experimental and Human Liver Carcinogenesis" (University of Oslo).

1988 - 2000 Clinical Research Coordinator of  The Scandinavian Sarcoma Group (SSG). I have had the position of international PI and study coordinator functions for 6 international cooperative studies on osteosarcoma and soft tissue sarcoma (numbers 1-5 and 8 in the list below), with principal responsibility for protocol design, study monitoring, data analysis and publication. In addition I have been Norwegian PI & study coordinator responsibility for 2 studies on Ewing's sarcoma (numbers 6 and 7 below). The position as SSG Research Coordinator has also involved a coordinator function in the bone sarcoma cooperation between the Scandinavian (SSG) and Italian (ISG) sarcoma groups.

The role in SSG also included development of the SSG Central Patient Register, a Scandinavian Sarcoma database organized within the Regional Cancer Register for South Sweden.

The studies with international Principal Investigator responsibilities have been:

1. Scandinavian multicenter osteosarcoma study SSG-II, published by Saeter et al. in J. Clin. Oncol., 9, 1766-1775, 1991.

2. Scandinavian multicenter osteosarcoma study SSG VIII, published by Smeland et al. in  Eur. J.  Cancer, 39, 488-494, 2003.

3. Osteosarcoma intergroup pilot study ISG/SSG I, published by Bacci et al. in J. Chemother, 14,198-206, 2002.

4. Osteosarcoma intergroup study ISG/SSG I, preliminary results presented by Smeland et al. at ASCO 2003 (Proc. ASCO, 22, 817, 2003), final paper by Ferrari et J. Clin. Oncol., 23, 8845-8852, 2005. 

5. Osteosarcoma intergroup study ISG/SSG II, recently closed for inclusion.

6. Scandinavian multicenter Ewing's sarcoma study SSG IV, published by Nilbert et al. in Acta Oncol. Scand., 37, 375-378, 1998.

7. Scandinavian multicenter Ewing's sarcoma study SSG IX, published by Elomaa et al. in Eur. J. Cancer, 36, 875-880, 2000.

8. Scandinavian multicenter soft tissue sarcoma study SSG X, published by Saeter et al. in Eur. J. Cancer, 33, 1551-1558, 1997.

1993 - 2000 Secretary and Scientific Coordinator, The Scandinavian Sarcoma Group: Involved responsibility for a coordinated strategy and organization of the diagnosis and treatment of bone and soft tissue tumours in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland. The position also involved advisory functions and support during the formation of National sarcoma groups in Italy, UK, Poland and Australia.

2003-2007: Member of the Advisory Board of "Framingham on Oncology" (monthly international publication).

April 2004 onwards: Faculty Member in European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO).

Reviewer for manuscripts submitted to a multitude of national and international journals, including Eur. J. Cancer, Cancer, Hepatology, Acta Oncol. Scand., Acta Orthop. Scand. and J. Norw. Med. Assoc. 

Member of EU expert evaluation panel for research applications to the EU 6th Framework Program in 2003/2004 and 2005/2006 (two successive appointments):

Appointed as an independent expert doing both remote evaluations and on-site expert panel evaluations in Brussels. In 2004 I also served as the responsible reference expert for the panel evaluating the applications to the section "Development of European Networks of Excellence to promote research into uncommon cancers in adults and children".
EU person of reference for this activity: Director Dr. Maria-Jose Vidal-Ragout.

Expert reviewer of ongoing funded EU research programs (6th Framework) in 2007/2008 (two reviews).

June 2005: Member of ESMO expert advisory panel on the plans of a merger between European Clinical Cancer Societies into one multidisciplinary organization.

May 2009: Awarded Honorary Membership of The Scandinavian Sarcoma Group.

Previous participation in clinical and translational research projects at The Norwegian Radium Hospital:

* Clinical outcome in bone and soft tissue sarcoma.

* Molecular genetic determinants of chemosensitivity and chemoresistance in bone and soft tissue sarcomas.

* The role of interferon in anti-osteosarcoma therapy: molecular mechanisms and clinical effects.

* Detection of micrometastatic disease in osteosarcoma and its value in prognostication and monitoration of treatment effect.

* Effects on treatment results of multidisciplinary team organization and its refinement.

* Long term toxicity and quality of life following successful chemotherapy in childhood and adolescence.

* Molecular characterization of peripheral nerve sheath tumours.

* Biology and clinical outcome in radiation-induced sarcomas.

* Institutional leader of the Steering group for all projects on gene therapy and vaccine development (in lung cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma and paediatric solid tumours).

* Steering group member for the institutional projects on functional genomics (microarray
   technology and proteomics).  


84  original peer-reviewed published papers registered in PubMed.   

19    review papers, book chapters and monographs.

  4  other scientific publications with original data.

105 published abstracts with original data.

  9  publications of other typs, including 3 public reports, official yearly reports on patient
     activity, and publications intended for the public.

IN TOTAL  211  PUBLICATIONS  (complete list available on request).


Since 1998 head of the development of a novel IT application for dosage, ordination, pharmacy production, administration and quality assurance of chemotherapy ("Cytodose"). The application electronically standardizes all chemotherapy courses, and effectuates dosage, ordination to pharmacy, pharmacy production and administration to the patient. The application is commercialized through a software company specialized in hospital software, and is currently in use in multiple oncology centres and departments in Norway and Sweden, and an European launch is forthcoming. In cooperation with the Norwegian Department of Health I have also led the development of related applications including a national database of standardized and quality assured chemotherapy course descriptions ("Cytoreg") where the course descriptions can be directly downloaded into Cytodose (available on the internet at Also, a network version of Cytodose ("Cytolink") has been developed to allow on-line chemotherapy interaction between cooperating oncology institutions treating the same patient (Cytolink is currently undergoing b testing).

I am now part of a team futher developing Cytodose into a multidisciplinary treatment program giving multifunctional access to both individual patient treatment plans and protocol design for standardized patient treatment and clinical research.


* The Scandinavian Sarcoma Group (SSG) (Honorary member)

* The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)

* The European Musculo-Skeletal Oncology Society (EMSOS)

* European Osteosarcoma Intergroup (EOI)

* Connective Tissue Oncology Society (CTOS)

* European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)

* American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)

* Nordic Association for Pediatric Hematology & Oncology (NOPHO)


I have considerable experience in this field as I have held core leadership positions in the following re-design processes and organizational mergers:

1. The merger between two of Oslo's university hospitals: Rikshospitalet and The Norwegian Radium Hospital in 2004-2005.

2. The subsequent merger between all three Oslo University Hospitals (Rikshospitalet, Ullevål University Hospital, Aker University Hospital) in 2005-2006.

3. The merger between Merck and Schering-Plough in 2009-2010.



* Head of the the Department of Medical Oncology, The Norwegian Radium Hospital (NRH) from March 2000 (current position).

* Head of NRH's multidisciplinary sarcoma group 1993-2000.

* Member of the Medical Advisory Board to the Director of NRH from 1988 to 1991. Secretary of the Board for 2 years.

* Secretary of Department of Health Committee for the study of the relationship between patient volume and the quality of patient care (appointed June 1992, final report published in 1993 - is also available in English).

* Chairman for Department of Health Committee for the organisation of pediatric oncology in Norway, report finalized and published 01.02.1994.

* Author of a comprehensive report to The Department of Health advising centralization of all patients with high-grade malignant bone tumours to one national centre.

* Member of the Regional Health Committee on paediatric services and genetics for Health Region II (eastern, central and southern Norway).

* Scandinavian Sarcoma Group and international research appointments (see above).

* From January 1996 appointed Norwegian Medical Association representative in The Medical Council for Life Insurance, which is a centralized board for the evaluation of complicated health status in relation to life insurance.

* Member of Regional Council for the elaboration of a Regional Plan for Cancer Care (for Southern/Eastern Norway). Published in May 2004.

* Member of  the senior "Coordinating Group" during the merger negotiations and implementation between the hospitals NRH and Rikshospitalet in Oslo Jan.-June 2004.

* Member of the merged institution's "Strategic Board" from Jan. 2005.


*  Faculty Member, European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), from June 2004

* 2000 and updated in 2005: The author of  two ESMO guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of osteosarcoma and Ewing's sarcoma, published on the internet ( and in Ann. Oncol.; Vol. 16 Suppl 1, 71-74, 2005.

* Opponent appointed by The University of Lund for the Ph.D. dissertation of Pelle      Gustafsson, 1993 (Thesis: Soft Tissue Sarcoma. Epidemiology and prognosis in 508 patients).

* Clinical teaching at the University of Oslo Medical School, one half day per week (from 1988 onwards).

* Coordinator, presenter and lecturer at a vast number of national and international teaching courses, congresses etc.

* Mentorship for 5 successful Ph.D. dissertations:

Björn Skytting MD, Ph.D: "Synovial Sarcoma. A Scandinavian Sarcoma Group Project", University of Stockholm, 2000.

Clement Trovik MD, Ph.D: "Local recurrence of soft tissue sarcoma. A Scandinavian Sarcoma Group Project", University of Bergen, 2001.

Liv Hege Aksnes MD, Ph.D: "Health in long-term survivors of bone sarcoma", University of Oslo, 2009

Christoph Müller MD, Ph.D: "Novel approaches to the treatment of high-grade sarcoma", University of Oslo, 2011.

Hege Ohnstad MD, Ph.D: "Novel therapeutic strategies in sarcoma", University of Oslo 2013.

* Currently (2013) mentor for one ongoing Ph. D. project:  Bodil Bjerkehagen MD: Secondary sarcomas.

* 2002: Professoral competence for Gunnar Saeter declared by the University of Oslo after evaluation by an international committee. Associate professor in Oncology at The University of Oslo from Oct. 2002.

* Appointed opponent by The University of Lund, Sweden, for the Ph.D. dissertation of Jacob Engellau, MD, in December 2004 (Thesis: Malignant Fibrous Histiocytomas of Soft Tissue).

* Keynote speaker at the world SIOP congress on pediatric oncology in Oslo (September 2004). Title: "Current challenges in Bone Sarcomas". This presentation is part of the Cure4Kids network and available on:

* Invited speaker at the annual conference of Association of National Cancer Registries in Stockholm Sept. 2004. Title: Collaboration between cancer registries and clinical researchers: What have we achieved and where do we go? The case in Lymphoma and Sarcoma research.

* Member of the scientific committee for the ESMO congress in Istanbul 2006.

* Invited speaker for the "Campanacci Honorary Lecture" at the 2012 European Musculoskeletal Oncology Society (EMSOS): "Modern drug development seen from the academic and industrial perspectives: personal reflections from a hybrid".

* A vast number of lectures and presentations in national and international fora, several dozens of duties as chairman of scientific sessions etc.

* Professor of Oncology at The University of Oslo (from Aug. 2013)

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