Sigrid Skånland, project leader at Institute for Cancer Research (ICR) at Oslo University Hospital and researcher in functional precision cancer medicine in MATRIX, is awarded the prize Researcher of the Year 2023. The award of 100,000 NOK is funded by the Radium Hospital Foundation. Skånland receives the prize for her efforts to develop and implement precision medicine for patients with blood cancer.
“To avoid serious side effects and treatment that has limited effect, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms that underlie these conditions in more detail. In our research, we aim to identify biomarkers in the patients’ cancer cells that can say something about how the patient will respond to a given treatment, before the treatment is initiated”, says Skånland.
To identify biomarkers that can guide precision medicine, it is necessary to analyze both patient data, genomic data, and functional data. This requires interdisciplinary collaborations. Skånland coordinates an EU-funded consortium with partners from six countries in Europe, CLL-CLUE. Both clinicians, biologists, mathematicians, and health economists are represented. The aim of this collaboration is to tailor the treatment for patients with the blood cancer chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
“Because CLL is a heterogeneous disease, and we work with very complex data, it is necessary to collaborate across disciplines. We use machine learning to identify patterns in the data, and it is likely that artificial intelligence will be helpful in future cancer care”, says Skånland.
Sigrid Skånland has a PhD from the University of Oslo followed by a postdoc period as an EMBLO fellow at the Goethe University School of Medicine in Frankfurt, Germany. In recent years she has worked as a project group leader at the Institute for Cancer Research, OUH. In 2022, she spent 6 months as a guest researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
The ICR leadership highlights the fact that Sigrid Skånland has established an independent international research profile in the field of functional precision medicine. She is project leader for several studies, and this important work has led to several articles in high profile journals with Skånland as last author.
“Skånland is a worthy winner of this year's research award. She has demonstrated the ability and willingness to build an international research profile through several stays abroad in high-profile research groups and initiating several innovative research projects. In particular, her ability to transfer preclinical research results into clinical trials to test potential patient benefit, has impressed the leadership team“, says Professor Johanna Olweus on behalf of the leadership team at the Institute for Cancer Research.
Skånland’s efforts to develop precision medicine has been fruitful. Patients with CLL are now offered personalized treatment in the national clinical trial IMPRESS-Norway. Patients with relapsed disease may have a drug test performed on their cancer cells and can receive experimental treatment in the trial if the test is positive.
«I am very thankful to be awarded this prize, and to everyone who contributes to moving the research forward! The prize will be spent on our continued work to offer the right treatment to the right patient at the right time”, says Sigrid Skånland.
We congratulate Sigrid on receiving the Researcher of the Year 2023 Award!