South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority recently awarded 150 million NOK in regional research funds for 2024 to a total of 98 new research projects. We congratulate Åslaug Helland on receiving 8.7 million NOK over three years for the project “Drug repurposing in hard-to-treat cancers -MATRIX-RARE”, a clinical study where patients with rare, hard-to-treat cancer types will be offered precision cancer medicine therapy in earlier treatment lines.
MATRIX is a national Centre for clinical cancer research with an ambition to extend the lives and improve the quality of life of patients with hard-to-treat cancers. MATRIX-RARE is the first study originating from the Centre, and the study has already entered into an agreement with a pharmaceutical company regarding access to drugs.
The national trial IMPRESS-Norway has since April 2021 included more than 1500 cancer patients with advanced disease, and we see an enrichment of rare cancers (approximately half of all the patients in IMPRESS-Norway have rare cancers). Several hard-to-treat cancers are rare cancers, and few clinical studies are currently available for these patients. However, from IMPRESS-Norway we now know that a larger proportion of these tumors (approx. 23%) have genetic changes that match targeted drugs approved for other indications, and that 42% of these patients benefit from treatment that matches the molecular biomarker in their tumors.
IMPRESS-Norway and other DRUP-like clinical trials across Europe investigate the concept of re-purposing drugs to patients progressing on standard treatment and include patients with advanced disease after progression on standard treatment. However, we know that cancer cells are more susceptible to therapy in earlier lines of treatment, and it is therefore likely that patients would benefit more if effective treatment was attempted earlier in the course of the disease. This will now be investigated in more detail in MATRIX-RARE.
MATRIX-RARE will use knowledge from IMPRESS-Norway and focus on subgroups of patients with rare hard-to-treat cancers, who benefit from precision cancer treatment. In contrast to the IMPRESS-Norway trial, the MATRIX-RARE study will initiate treatment before progression on all other therapies. Initially the study will include anaplastic thyroid cancer, salivary gland carcinoma, glioblastoma multiforme, cholangiocarcinoma and small intestine cancers. The study is planned to start in 2024.
“We are very happy about the support from the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority, which enables us to start this study! We believe this will be an important study to increase knowledge of precision medicine in patient groups with rare and serious cancer types, and this study will also provide an offer to these patient groups, who often do not have other good alternatives”, says Åslaug Helland, Director of MATRIX and PI of the MATRIX-RARE trial.