Helena Carén and Anna Martner, both researchers at the Cancer Center at the Sahlgrenska Academy, have received the country’s largest research grant for young researchers. They were two of eight young researchers in total who recently received SSMF’s Large Grant at a ceremony in Stockholm.
The large grant from the Swedish Society for Medical Research is a new four-year establishment support for young researchers on full time and half time, respectively, the latter for clinically active researchers, and an associated operational grant. Both Helena Carén and Anna Martner will have full-time research positions financed by the grant.
“The grant from SSMF shows that there is a value in what I am doing and that I am focusing on relevant and important issues. This also means that I can now focus on my research since I don’t need to spend my time writing research applications to bring in grants for my own salary and my projects,” says Helena Carén, who has the goal in her research of improving survival after brain tumors and reducing the serious side-effects that often follow the treatment:
“I work with brain tumors and specifically with cancer stem cells from brain tumors. There are many indications that it is these cells that cause the emergence of tumors, spread of tumors and resistance to treatment. A major challenge is formulating treatments that specifically target such cancer stem cells at the same time that the normal tissue stem cells can develop.”
Also for Anna Martner, the grant means a better opportunity to focus on her research:
“The SSMF grant will allow me to plan for more long term experiments. I now have financing for the next four years and can conduct research instead of applying for research grants,” she says.
Anna Martner conducts research on a type of blood cancer, acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In AML, myeloid cells divide in an uncontrolled manner and immature white blood cells accumulate in the bone marrow, blood and other organs. Her research concerns interactions between leukemic cells and immune cells, especially tumor-killing cells such as NK cells and T cells, with the goal of improving the current treatment in leukemia.
“The general treatment of today, with only chemotherapy, does in most occasions not eradicate all cancer cells, and new treatments must aim at eliminating more malignant cells. Since AML is a very heterogeneous disease, and the leukemic cells in most cases carry several different mutations, I believe that anti-leukemic therapies in the future will consist of a combination of chemotherapy and selected targeted treatments,” says Anna Martner.