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Incurable cancer patients can have new drugs tested on themselves

Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital are partners in the world's first national collaboration between public hospitals, universities and the pharmaceutical industry, which will offer new medicines to cancer patients who cannot otherwise be helped with normal treatment.

NEXT will begin a number of early clinical trials in the involved hospitals relating to cancer and skin diseases.

Is it possible to help patients with cancer that has thus far been incurable and people with chronic skin diseases, while at the same time making Denmark the preferred country for early trials with test subjects?

According to Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital, the answer is yes. So Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital are now getting involved in a national partnership, together with a number of other public hospitals, universities and the pharmaceutical industry, called NEXT - National Experimental Therapeutic partnership. The project has a budget of DKK 124 million, with DKK 50 million being invested by Innovationsfonden, Denmark’s Innovation Foundation.

During the coming five years, NEXT will test new medicines that are unavailable on the market in trials conducted on people with diseases such as cancer. 

Best framework for early clinical research

At the same time, the trials will create the best possible framework for early clinical research, which will mean that the pharmaceutical industry will in future look to Denmark when performing trials that would otherwise be placed in other countries.

"Aarhus and the Central Denmark Region have an unique opportunity to benefit from this national collaboration which is aimed at attracting more clinical studies to Denmark," says the Vice-Chair in NEXT, Vice-Dean for Knowledge Exchange J. Michael Hasenkam from Aarhus University.

"It provides good opportunities for international cooperation and, together with the other centres, we will have a good opportunity to showcase our research competences in clinical research."

A unique opportunity

A strategic approach will make NEXT visible in the industry and turn it into an asset, the like of which cannot be found anywhere else around the world, thus making it possible to attract trials that would otherwise be carried out elsewhere.

All subjects in a clinical trial are volunteers and they can withdraw their consent at any time.

"NEXT is a unique opportunity for Danish patients to contribute to research and at the same time benefit from the potential new treatment options," says J. Michael Hasenkam.

He adds that the NEXT platform is the result of an open collaboration between academic partners and the business community, and that hospitals will collaborate with companies whether they are large, small, pharmaceutical, biotech or medico companies.

Cancer research and skin diseases first

To begin with, NEXT will begin a number of early clinical trials in the involved hospitals relating to cancer and skin diseases. Early clinical trials are where new drugs are tested on people for the first time in the hope of seeing a possible effect.

Cancer and skin diseases are areas in which pharmaceutical companies have a lot of research and where there are also strong public research environments. These areas have therefore been selected, as they will provide the greatest number of possible trials. But the idea behind NEXT is to expand to other diseases.

"Initially two pilot centres are being established as a national initiative, but with their physical facilities at the Rigshospitalet and Bispebjerg Hospital. Though we are working in NEXT to establish at least one pilot centre that is physically placed in Aarhus," says J. Michael Hasenkam.

Innovationsfonden is investing DKK 50 million in the project while the other involved parties are contributing DKK 74 million.

The money will e.g. be used to employ staff with special focus on identifying patients who could be candidates for the clinical trials in NEXT and to make it easier to perform the clinical trials in Denmark.


NEXT comprises ten core partners: LEO Pharma A/S, University of Copenhagen, Odense University Hospital, Aarhus University/Aarhus University Hospital, Aalborg University Hospital, Roche A/S, Novartis Healthcare A/S, MSD Denmark ApS, Novo Nordisk A/S, and Bioneer A/S.

Further information:

Vice-Dean J. Michael Hasenkam
Aarhus University, Health
Tel.: +45 4091 3616