Good examples

Meetings in healthcare give rise to extensive research collaborations

Andreas Josefsson

Andreas Josefsson is a researcher and soon a specialist in urology. He enjoys standing with one foot in the clinic and the other at the Sahlgrenska Cancer Center. There he conducts clinical studies that can significantly improve the diagnosis, care and treatment for patients with proliferated prostate cancer.

Across the street from Sahlgrenska University Hospital is Medicinarberget, a campus area that brings medical and natural science research in Gothenburg together. Through a footbridge you can quickly and easily walk between the hospital and the campus area.

It is early morning. Andreas Josefsson has the day off from his clinical service and is at Sahlgrenska Cancer Center, a center focusing on translational cancer research. It is an important part of the strategic research area Cancer at Gothenburg University and BioCare, a state-funded strategic research program.

Andreas has a region-funded fellowship and is part of a large research group, started by Professor Jan-Erik Damber, and currently led by Professor Jonas Hugosson.

– Since I came to Gothenburg, my goal has been to collaborate translationally with the aim of reaching European top level together. I have had the privilege of working in strong research groups. I learn a lot and get the opportunity to develop and take more and more responsibility for conducting clinical studies. Now I am a supervisor for several PhD students and responsible for a few clinical studies that will answer clinically relevant questions.

The studies examine, among other things, whether tumor cells identified in the blood can help us understand the process behind the spread of prostate cancer and how best to treat the men who regain the disease after surgery or radiation.

– Using samples from patients and parallel studies in animals, the research group maps important mechanisms that can deepen the understanding. The long term and most desirable goal is, of course, to be able to cure even spread cancer.

A letter about the future

Andreas Josefsson studied medicine at Umeå University, and started doing research early on. He was awarded a research scholarship and joined one of Sweden’s leading research groups focusing on prostate cancer.

– I really felt that I was in the right place. I have always been interested in science and I kept research boxes and different inventions in the garage when I was a kid.

Andreas smiles. He started a scientific community in high school and he worked on an invention that he tried to patent.

– I enjoy working together with others on new thoughts and ideas.

As a teen ager, he wrote a letter to himself about what he believed about his future, a letter that he received back much later.

– I had written that I wanted to do medical research.

After graduation, he has continued to do research in parallel with his urology residency. He defended his dissertation on prognostic markers in prostate cancer at Umeå University in 2012. He lives and works in Gothenburg since 2012.

With the feet in two worlds

Being both a researcher and a doctor at the Urological clinic at Sahlgrenska University Hospital has great advantages. There is a stated ambition to stimulate close collaboration between clinics, research and industry; the focus is to stimulate development and innovation.

When meeting patients with spread prostate cancer, he can offer them an opportunity to participate in clinical studies; the aim is to develop and improve future diagnostics, care and treatment.

– In Sweden, there is a great deal of confidence in clinical research and many patients want to contribute to research, even when it does not benefit them directly, but for the benefit of others in the future.

The rapid and broad development in diagnostics and technology call for even more cooperation and collaboration. Early on, Andreas saw the potential in creating bridges between the clinic and preclinical research. When he started working at the Urological clinic there was no structured retrieval of samples from patients, and there was only one ethical approval for investigating tissue samples from prostate cancer patients. Today there are several ethical approvals and a number of ongoing research projects with the aim of identifying biomarkers for prostate cancer. Andreas is involved in several of them and is responsible for some of the studies.

– It gives us the opportunity to collect tissue samples from patients every week, and we can use them in a number of prospective studies.

Today there is a multitude of molecular characterization methods that has opened new doors to explore tumor biological processes and provide answers to clinically relevant questions such as: what blood-based biomarker is the best for individual-based treatment in prostate cancer?

– We have identified markers that can give us predictive information and hopefully help us to customise treatment in the future. We have identified patients with spread and rapidly growing prostate cancer who are in great need of more aggressive supplementary treatment, while others respond very well to the treatment currently available.

Andreas works closely with a molecular biologist, professor Karin Welén, who develops animal models for molecular characterization.

– My focus has been to find the clinically relevant questions. I have also worked on project plans, funding, ethics, building databases and recruiting the skills needed for the various projects: research doctors, research nurses and many others.

Other important partners in Gothenburg are Ingela Franck-Lissbrant, Chief Physician of Oncologist and Employees at the Urology, as well as the Sahlgrenska Biobank and Gothia Forum.

New center formation

In 2018, a new Prostate Cancer Center will start at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. All the knowledge and skills that is currently spread in many different places will be gathered there. Andreas sees big advantages with the center.

– It gives us new exciting opportunities to connect research with clinical life in a more structured and organized manner. Everybody wins, both patients and healthcare.

What do you think is most stimulating with your assignments?

– Having my feet in two worlds. I really enjoy to meet patients and to find exciting questions that we can then take into research. I am driven by developing new ideas and finding solutions to complex problems in close collaboration with others.