Research projects

The Norwegian Cancer Society’s National Group of Expertise on Pancreatic Cancer (Kreftforeningens nasjonale ekspertgruppe på pancreaskreft – KNEP)

This national consortium encompasses nine research groups that work with pancreatic cancer and now bundle their activities in the context of this 5-years´project. The research portfolio of KNEP comprises studies in the clinical fields of surgery, oncology and medical genetics, in addition to laboratory-based studies on multi-omics characterization of tumour tissue, high-throughput drug screening, histopathology, metabolomics, and animal models for pancreatic cancer. The work package on pathology focuses on morphological and molecular tumour heterogeneity.

PANCAIM – Pancreatic cancer Artificial Intelligence for genomics and personalized Medicine

The aim of this EU-funded project is to use artificial intelligence (AI) to assist clinical decision-making through improved prediction of treatment response and patient outcome. AI will be used for the integration of multi-omics, radiomics and pathomics, the three pillars of personalized medicine. Data will be extracted from a joint pan-European repository with close to 6000 pancreatic cancer patients. Project start: March 2021.

Tumour heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer

There is growing evidence that marked inter- and intratumour heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer is a prominent cause for treatment failure. While various taxonomy classifications based on transcriptomics have been proposed, morphological heterogeneity has not been given attention, despite the fact that it is both exceedingly common and pronounced. In this project, four distinct morphological patterns of pancreatic cancer are characterised by a panel of structural and functional features of both the tumour cell population and tumour stroma. Preliminary results show that differences in morphology reflect significant divergence in processes that are deemed to play a central role in the aggressive biology of pancreatic cancer. 

Effect of neoadjuvant treatment on pancreatic cancer

In more than 80% of patients, disease is advanced at the time of diagnosis, such that surgery is no longer possible and chemotherapy remains the only treatment option. Unfortunately, the vast majority of patients have very limited benefit from cytotoxic treatment. With the advent of neoadjuvant treatment, the residual tumour tissue, i.e., the part of the cancer that is or has become resistant to treatment, can be characterised and investigated in surgical resection specimens. In this project, intratumour heterogeneity in the residual cancer is investigated by detailed topographic mapping, quantitative assessment of the residual cancer burden, and characterisation of proliferative activity.

Ex vivo culture model of precision-cut pancreatic cancer tissue slices

Given the important role of tumour-stroma interactions in the response to treatment, experimental models should ideally include the tumour microenvironment. In this project, 250 micron thick slices of fresh human pancreatic cancer tissue are cut on a vibrating microtome and kept in culture for up to 48 hrs. This allows for studying the effect of various therapies on the cancer cell population, the tumour microenvironment, and the interactions between both. 

Metabolic rewiring and chemoresistance in pancreatic cancer

Recent evidence indicates that pancreatic cancer cells alter their metabolic pathways and use unorthodox strategies for nutrient acquisition in order to survive the deeply hypoxic and nutrient-poor tumour microenvironment. In this project, (co-)cultures of primary human pancreatic cancer cells and stromal cells will be used to investigate the altered metabolic pathways, the role of the stromal cells in the metabolic reprogramming, and the possible link with chemoresistance.

Tumour heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer: transcriptional subclassification and tumour metabolism.

Molecular and metabolic inter- and intratumour heterogeneity is likely an important cause of treatment failure in pancreatic cancer. In this study, a panel of antibodies interrogating the glycolytic and oxidative phosphorylation pathways are employed on paraffin embedded tissue slices in order to map metabolic activity of the cancer cell population and study the association between tumour histomorphology, transcriptional subtypes and metabolic properties. This basic knowledge may contribute to improved pathology assessment and subclassification of pancreatic cancer and possibly to a more individualized and effective treatment for these patients.

Spatial digital profiling for the assessment of intratumour heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer

One of the hallmarks of pancreatic cancer is the pronounced intratumour heterogeneity, both in the cancer cell population and the tumour microenvironment. Spatial digital profiling offers a unique possibility to spatially analyse proteins and RNA transcripts. In a first pilot project, RNA transcripts from cancer cells, cancer-associated fibroblasts and leukocytes are analysed and compared between the centre and periphery of the tumour. This project is undertaken in collaboration with Prof. Elin Kure (Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital).

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