Åslaug Helland is awarded the prestigious prize for her excellent molecular and clinical research, particularly on lung cancer diagnosis and treatment and for her efforts to introduce precision oncology for all types of cancer in Norway. The prize, one million NOK, will be presented by HM King Harald V in a ceremony in Oslo on 2 May.
We congratulate Åslaug Helland on this well-deserved recognition for outstanding research efforts over many years. Helland has made important contributions in characterising and identifying target populations of patients and in understanding cancer resistance mechanisms across multiple tumour types. She has taken even more important and key roles in designing, conducting, and analysing seminal trials, documenting the clinical efficacy of cancer therapies and setting out their use in lung cancer and other indications. In recent years, Åslaug Helland has also played a central role in building a national initiative within precision cancer medicine in Norway, and she heads the ongoing national, researcher-initiated clinical trial IMPRESS-Norway for patients with advanced cancer and where treatment is offered based on the molecular profile of the cancer tumour.
“We had no doubts about who we were going to award this year. Åslaug should take much of the credit for the fact that more and more Norwegians survive lung cancer. When the Norwegian Cancer Society established a national expert group for lung cancer ten years ago, Helland was the obvious choice to lead it. Since then, knowledge about the diagnosis has increased a lot. This has resulted in a number of new treatment options and given new hope to patients and their families. At the time, less than 25 percent of the patients received curative treatment. Today, the number is almost 40! Åslaug has also done a fantastic job of bringing together the oncology community to build up precision cancer medicine," says Secretary General of the Norwegian Cancer Society Ingrid Stenstadvold Ross.
Stenstadvold Ross adds that "We are deeply grateful for all the hours Åslaug invests in developing cancer treatment and helping Norwegian cancer patients. We look forward to following also her future work".
Åslaug Helland is a clinical oncologist, heading the research group Translational studies on solid tumours at the Department of Cancer Genetics, Oslo University Hospital. Moreover, she is a Professor at the Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo. From 2019, Helland is also the Head of Research in the Oslo University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Centre, and from 2022, she is the Director of MATRIX, the Norwegian Centre for Clinical Cancer Research.
Professor Kjetil Taskén, Head of Institute for Cancer Research, has worked closely with Åslaug Helland over a number of years. He highlights her unique ability to bring the scientific communities together also nationally in addition to her research merits.
“Åslaug has shown a unique ability and capacity to initiate, lead and effectively organise clinical trials producing important academic findings and introducing new clinical practises for the benefit of patients. Furthermore, she has taken on great scientific leadership responsibilities as national PI of the IMPRESS-Norway trial and as Director of the Norwegian Centre for Clinical Cancer Research, MATRIX. Åslaug conducts her leadership in a unifying way, making the Norwegian oncology environments come together to work on national tasks such as implementation of precision cancer medicine across Norway”, explains Taskén.
Åslaug Helland is deeply honoured to receive this recognition and says “It is with great humility that I receive this award, and I see it as recognition of what has been achieved in good cooperation with many”.
About HM King Olav V’s Prize for Cancer Research
King Olav V’s Cancer Research Prize has since 1992 been awarded annually to a cancer researcher or a research group that has contributed to promoting the quality and the extent of Norwegian cancer research. The Committee assesses candidates according to the following criteria:
· The extent to which cancer patients have or will benefit from the research that has been carried out.
· Whether the candidate is still active - and is expected to be active in the coming years in their environment with publication and dissemination of research results to the general public.
· Whether the researcher / research group has achieved international recognition for their research.
· Whether the candidate over time has contributed to building up and strengthening Norwegian research environments through his or her scientific commitment.
Åslaug Helland is the 32nd recipient of this award. An overview of former prize winners is available here.