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SDU researchers lead the largest Danish EU project on cancer research

With 60 million Danish kroner in funding, an international team of researchers led by Malene Grubbe Hildebrandt aims to find the best way to scan so that breast cancer patients can live longer.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 12/13/2023

The average lifespan for breast cancer patients, where the cancer has spread and become incurable, is three years. Detecting cancer earlier can prompt quicker treatment, increasing the chances of a longer lifespan.

This is the backdrop for the project lead by Malene Grubbe Hildebrandt, a clinical associate professor and research leader at the Research Unit for Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine at the Department of Clinical Research and a consultant physician at Odense University Hospital. She has assembled researchers from seven countries for the project, which has received the largest grant under Danish leadership from the EU for cancer research to date.

- We believe that PET scans are significantly better than CT scans and that by using PET scans to guide treatment, we can extend patients' lifespans to around four years. Our previous, smaller studies have shown this, but we have yet to prove it in larger clinical trials. Therefore, it needs further examination, and now we have the opportunity, explained research leader Malene Grubbe Hildebrandt.

The researchers' hypothesis is that PET scans more effectively detect cancer cells earlier, allowing patients to receive treatment sooner, thus prolonging the lives of incurably ill patients. This hypothesis will now be further investigated.

Collaboration across Denmark and the EU

The experiment will span six years, conducted as a randomized trial involving 420 incurably ill breast cancer patients in the EU closely monitored during their treatment. Patients will be randomly assigned either CT scans or PET scans.

The grant was applied for through Horizon Europe, a part of the EU that continually provides financial support to research projects with an international focus. Objectives were set in 2021 to reduce cancer mortality rates across Europe.

For this reason, a wide range of applicants from across Europe has been involved in seeking the million-dollar grant from the EU and will participate in the research starting next year. Researchers from Switzerland, Sweden, Scotland, Germany, Italy, and Austria, alongside a total of four Danish regions, including seven Danish hospitals, applied for the grant from Horizon Europe.

Region of Southern Denmark, under which Odense University Hospital operates, leads the way for the research project idea. The application was formulated and submitted from this region.

Meet the researcher

Malene Grubbe is clinical associate professor and research leader at the Research Unit for Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine at the Department of Clinical Research and a consultant physician at OUH.



The grant comes from the EU's Horizon Europe framework program, with a budget of approximately 700 billion Danish kroner, providing financial support for research and projects across EU borders. Horizon Europe accepts applications for projects aimed at addressing some of the challenges the EU faces today.

When a Danish research project receives approval for funding, Denmark gets the opportunity to host research projects at a very high international level.
The grant for the incurable breast cancer experiment was applied for by the Danish partnership in the spring of 2023 and has now been approved to commence on January 1, 2024.

SDU researchers involved in the project

The extensive project involves participation from numerous SDU researchers in various roles. 

  • Marianne Vogsen, KI
  • Poul Høilund-Carlsen, KI
  • Jesper Hallas, IST
  • Morten Olesen, IST
  • Oke Gerke, KI
  • Steffen Møller-Larsen, KI
  • Kristian Kidholm, KI
  • Steffen Kjeldsen Thomsen, KI
  • Mads Thomassen, KI
  • Mohammad Naghavi-Behzad, KI
  • Sofie Tind Nygaard, KI
  • Sepideh Sadegh, KI
  • Annette Raskov Kodahl, KI
  • Paw Holdgaard, KI
  • Søren Hess, KI
  • Ole Graumann, KI
  • Marianne Ewertz, KI
  • Karin Dieperink, KI
Editing was completed: 13.12.2023