In a bid to improve cancer therapies, research conducted at Malmö University is being ‘translated’ by a guest professor as part of an EU-wide project which aims to drastically improve the fight against the disease.

The REVERT project was established to gain an understanding of, and then improve the treatment of, metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). The idea is to create an innovative artificial intelligence (AI) based decision support system using clinical and laboratory data.

The data is produced by a number of research institutions, hospitals, and companies, including a research group led by Professor Anette Gjörloff Wingren at Biofilms Research Center for Biointerfaces.

The cancer can progress rapidly — metastatic colorectal cancer is now one of the major cancer types among 35-40-year olds.

Professor Jenny Persson

This data is translated and fed into the AI system to develop an improved model of combinatorial therapies that identifies the most efficient and cost-effective therapeutic intervention for individual patients. The ultimate aim, therefore, is to aid oncologists in the clinic to deliver tailormade treatments formulated by the algorithms of the AI system.

Jenny Persson, a professor in tumour biology with a focus on experimental pathology and cancer research, who is currently a guest professor at Malmö University, describes colorectal cancer as a “significant killer”. It is her role to act as a link between the basic research stage, when the clinical and preclinical expertise are needed, to the AI-oncology stage.

She has an expertise and understanding of the mechanisms of how patients get the disease, and how mutations in genes are altered during the cancer spread to different vital organs.

“Malmö University is very good at doing the basic research, and I provide the clinical and translational research expertise and excellence. I am also cooperating in research and education. Therefore my role, in part, is to fill in this gap and act as a link,” says Persson, whose full professorship is at Umeå University.

The initial research is to set out the in vitro model systems to look at the cancer cells and their behaviours.

“If we want to understand how cells can move from a primary site to the vital organs, one can use these tools and instruments to follow the cells in real time. We work together to adapt in vitro studies to become translational. Then we provide this information to another team within REVERT.

"They can put all this data in the computer system to instruct the computer to translate it again to predict what types of mutations occurred during the time the cancer became really aggressive. After that, the most effective combination treatment for those patients who do not respond to the current treatment regimens are designed.

“The research is really essential to allow us to see how mutations occurred, how they evolve and the differences between the primary tumour and the tumour once it has entered into the lung, the brain, the skeleton. This is one of our aims, to study how these alterations of genes in metastatic tumours may influence the survival of the tumour cells."

In total, 20 partners are taking part in the project, including academic institutions, hospitals, and the private sector.

“It is a significant killer when it comes to cancer, even for younger people. The cancer can progress rapidly — metastatic colorectal cancer is now one of the major cancer types among 35-40-year olds,” Persson adds.