Each year, more than 235 million operations are performed worldwide. However, limited experimental evidence supports the effectiveness of these interventions and the methods used. The Novo Nordisk Foundation has therefore targeted a new programme for surgical research, and the grants were awarded for the first time in 2019. The Foundation has awarded a total of DKK 20 million for nine projects that will focus on experimental clinical research.
The overall goal of the new programme is to create more research-based knowledge in this field by promoting surgical research in Denmark. The scientific content is very diverse, but several of the projects focus on collaboration across surgical departments in Denmark and the Nordic countries and across professions. Thus, these projects can help to build professional networks in surgical research.
“Our idea behind the grants is to help to develop better, more effective and more gentle surgical treatments. The projects focus strongly on collaboration, and this clearly benefits the scientific content of the projects and ultimately the patients,” says Niels-Henrik von Holstein-Rathlou, Head of Biomedicine and Health Research, Novo Nordisk Foundation.
Surgical treatment of cluster headaches
One project that has been awarded a grant is based at Aarhus University. The researchers will develop treatment for chronic cluster headaches, also known as Horton’s headache. The researchers will validate the effectiveness of treatment with occipital nerve stimulation. This method comprises an operation in which a small electrode is inserted into a nerve in the neck, which is used to affect the parts of the brain stem where the pain is thought to originate. The function is comparable to that of a pacemaker stimulating the nerves in the neck rather than the heart.
The method using occipital nerve stimulation seems to be effective in treating cluster headaches, but the clinical effects need to be further investigated. Further, this method is very expensive. The project will therefore also investigate whether a different and less costly method can be used to predict how occipital nerve stimulation affects individual people. This second method is called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and has been shown to benefit people with cluster headaches. The researchers will investigate whether transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can be used to predict how subsequent occipital nerve stimulation affects each patient, so that the expensive occipital nerve stimulation is carried out only if a good outcome is anticipated.
The Foundation’s grants for clinical research in 2019
In addition to the DKK 20 million for surgical research, the Foundation has awarded DKK 60 million for research in clinical and translational medicine and DKK 80 million for investigator-initiated clinical trials.
The Foundation has awarded 44 grants across the three programmes.
Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, phone: +45 3067 4805, [email protected]