Nikolai Engedal was recently awarded 9 million NOK in Open project support from The South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority (Helse Sør-Øst) 2020 call. The project aims to unravel the role of autophagy in prostate cancer formation and progression, to discover prognostic autophagy-related gene signatures and markers, and to identify autophagy-modulating drugs that can reduce cancer cell aggressiveness. Engedal is now starting up a project group in Eivind Hovig’s group at the Department of Tumor Biology.
“In spite of much focus, the role of autophagy in cancer is poorly understood”, says Engedal, who started studying autophagy in the prostate cancer group of Ian G. Mills at the Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway (NCMM) in 2010. “One reason for this is the difficulty of measuring autophagic activity and capacity in tumor tissue”, he continues. Engedal started a long-term collaboration with the Norwegian pioneer in autophagy research, Per O. Seglen in 2012. In 2013, Engedal was awarded a “Young Research Talent” grant from the Research Council of Norway, and he led an independent, autophagy-focused research team at the Centre for Molecular Medicine (NCMM) in 2014-2019. “I spent much time and effort to adapt, validate, downscale, and simplify Per Seglen’s original methods to assess functional autophagy”, says Engedal. “Equipped with these and other methods, we are now finally at the stage where we can start to monitor autophagy in tumor tissue, as well as use this information in conjunction with sequencing, immunohistochemistry, and clinical data. I expect that this project will bring us a giant leap forward in understanding the role of autophagy in prostate cancer”, Engedal states, and adds “I can hardly wait to see what we will find”.
The project involves collaboration with basal and clinical researchers at the Institute, as well as other national and international partners.
“This project combines my long-standing interests in both prostate cancer and autophagy”, says Engedal. Engedal studied prostate cancer biology for 3 years in the group of Fahri Saatcioglu at the Biotechnology Centre of Oslo. He received his PhD from the Medical Faculty in 2005, under the supervision of Heidi Kiil Blomhoff, and got into the field of membrane trafficking in the group of Kirsten Sandvig (2006-2010). After the period at NCMM (2010-2019), Engedal joined the prostate cancer project group of Alfonso Urbanucci in Eivind Hovig’s group. Engedal has edited the Special Issue “Autophagy in Cancer” in Biology, and has chaired the Nordic Autophagy Society since 2015. The Helse Sør-Øst grant enables his transition to Project group leader of the newly founded “Autophagy in Cancer” project group at the Department of Tumor Biology.