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Monday, June 24, 2024

Oslo biotech firms on a roll

Oslo’s thriving cancer research and biotech community was enjoying international attention this week, after one firm could confirm good results with a new treatment for prostate cancer and another was tackling tumors successfully with its new treatment.

Norwegian newspapers featured lengthy articles on both the research firms Algeta and PCI Biotech. Algeta saw its share price soar after it released top test results that prove its prostate cancer treatment has extended the lives and the quality of life of male patients.

Offshore worker’s success story
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported the case of Svein Martin Sæle, a 52-year-old offshore oil platform worker who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004. After the dreaded disease had spread into Sæle’s bone structure, he was included in the tests carried out by Algeta, which was established in Oslo in 1997 by chemist Roy H Larsen and Professor Øyvind S Bruland, both with long experience from Norway’s main cancer hospital and the University of Oslo.

They had developed a radiation technology and Sæle has been testing it along with 900 other men. In a special control group at Bergen’s Haukeland University Hospital, 45 men were involved, with two-thirds receiving the Alegeta medicine called Alpharadin and the other injected with salt water.

Doctors treating the men weren’t told who received what, but Dr Daniel Heinrich was impressed with Sæle’s reaction. His cancer stopped spreading, and he started feeling much better. Heinrich told DN that he’s convinced Sæle has lived, and had a much better quality of life, for at least a year longer than expected. Half of those who didn’t receive Alpharadin died within 11 months. Of those who were treated with Alpharadin, half were still living after 14 months.

“These are active men in good shape,” Heinrich said. “For them, the quality of life is important.”

‘Waiting for this for 10 years’
Thomas Ramdahl, who left industrial concern Norsk Hydro to join Algeta as technology chief in 2001, told DN that “this is what we’ve been waiting for, for 10 years.” The company has had many setbacks along the way, but Algeta struck a partnership with German drug giant Bayer in 2009, allowing research to be continue, and the firm also was able to start testing in the US. More capital came in, and investors’ shares have gone from NOK 11 to NOK 200 as of Tuesday. And then came news that Alpharadin also was showing good results in treating breast cancer that also had spread to female patients’ bones, and that side effects were minimal.

Now PCI Biotech is hoping that Algeta’s success bodes well for it, too. Its studies and testing of a new treatment for head- and throat-area tumors are much smaller, but preliminary results with 19 patients are said to be “very convincing:” Patients’ tumors have shrunk and even disappeared after using PCI Biotech’s light technology in connection with chemotherapy. PCI Biotech officials, like those at Algeta, are hoping to get their products to market as soon as possible, but probably not for another two years.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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