Research on Cancer and Haematology
Karolinska Institutet is at the forefront of cancer research in the world. The primary goal of the research conducted at KI is to make sure that as few people as possible suffer or die from cancer. Its research encompasses all areas, from the examination of molecules to the study of large demographic groups.
Roughly one third of the Swedish population develop cancer. There are several factors behind the increased risk of certain strains of cancer, such as dietary habits, smoking, hormone therapy, virus infections, genes and so on. Yet the researchers still need to find out much more about how cancer forms. There are long-term studies of how diet, genes and other environmental factors influence the risk of cancer and molecular research designed to find out why a normal cell changes into a cancer cell.
Today, the relative 5-year survival rate for all cancer diagnoses is around 67 percent, however the figure varies between different diagnoses. Many patients are cured, others are living with a cancer that is considered to be chronic. Research at Karolinska Institutet is also focused on improving therapeutic methods in an attempt to learn more about known genes that can stimulate or inhibit the development of cancer and other such factors. The use of "cancer vaccines" makes it possible to activate and strengthen the body's own defences and thereby develop new methods of treatment.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can cure cancer by causing damage to the tumour cells' DNA. However, different cancer cells have different abilities to withstand the treatment. By studying the reasons for this, researchers hope to reduce the risk of therapeutic resistance and to find medicines that counteract it.
One objective is also to be able to act more preventatively. If safer diagnostic methods, such as for the differentiation of aggressiveness in malignant tumours, can be found, as well as more reliable ways of assessing the risk of the cancer spreading and the sensitivity to different therapies, it will enable doctors to provide the best possible treatment as early as possible after diagnosis. The identification and location of specific markers for certain cancer forms will enable doctors to carry out prophylactic (preventative) operations that greatly reduce the risk of cancer.
Karolinska Institutet also conducts research into how to meet the needs of cancer patients and their families, and how to best give relief during the final phase of life.
Haematology is concerned with the blood and its diseases. Blood consists of red and white blood cells, platelets and the plasma which surrounds them, containing various factors. Diseases can develop as the result of deficiencies, for example, anaemia is a lack of red blood cells and haemophilia is caused by a deficiency of coagulation factors.
Cancers of the blood mainly affect different types of white blood cell. Among the most common forms are lymphoma, myeloma and leukaemia. Most of these types of cancer develop in adults and the elderly. Acute leukaemia can also occur in young children where research has contributed to a revolutionary improvement in treatment outcomes over the past few decades.