Digital public defence: Erlend Skaga Erlend Skaga at Institute of Clinical Medicine will be defending the thesis Drug sensitivity and resistance testing of brain tumor stem cells for individualized functional precision medicine for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor). 

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Photo: Øyestein Horgmo, UiO

The public defence will be held as a video conference over Zoom.

The defence will follow regular procedure as far as possible, hence it will be open to the public and the audience can ask ex auditorio questions when invited to do so.

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Adjudication committee

  • First opponent: Associate Professor Keith S. Ligon, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
  • Second opponent: Professor Do-Hyun Nam, Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Korea
  • Third member and chair of the evaluation committee: Professor II Åslaug Helland, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo

Chair of defence

Professor II John-Anker Zwart, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo

Principal supervisor

Post doc Einar O. Vik-Mo, Oslo University Hospital


Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common malignant brain tumor in adults. Despite treatment consisting of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, survival is limited and usually do not extend beyond a year. A major challenge in the development of new treatments is the complex tumor heterogeneity between patients that may render an effective treatment for one patient and ineffective for another.

The aims of the thesis were to functionally profile glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) in terms of drug sensitivity, and in turn develop new treatment strategies targeting GSCs in individual patients. This was undertaken using patient-specific cell cultures derived from surgical biopsies and automated high-throughput technology for drug sensitivity and resistance testing (DSRT) and drug sensitivity scoring of over 460 anticancer drugs. 

We found an extensive intertumoral heterogeneity in the drug sensitivity patterns between the individual GSC cultures. This was observed in overall sensitivity to the drug collection, in sensitivity to different drug classes and to single drugs. 

The results grouped GBMs into functional taxonomies based on drug sensitivity patterns and could also identify effective drugs for individual patients. 

The preclinical workup of culture establishment, expansion of GSCs, DSRT, and data analysis was feasible within a turnaround time to allow clinical translation of individualized treatment.

A combination treatment consisting of nine drugs approved for non-oncological indications were also tested for efficacy in the individual GSCs, demonstrating an effect in around half of the tested cultures. 

Overall, this work describes an extensive tumoral heterogeneity in drug sensitivity patterns in GBM and demonstrate how automated DSRT of patient-derived GSCs can identify treatment options for individual patients. The thesis forms the basis for a clinical trial targeting autologous GSCs in GBM using the DSRT-platform and for extension of methods to brain cancers in children. 

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Published Jan. 6, 2021 1:43 PM - Last modified Jan. 22, 2021 10:47 AM