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Molecular Disease Mechanisms

The Molecular Disease Mechanisms group

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most frequent and deadly cancers in the western world with more than 1.2 million yearly diagnoses and approximately 600,000 deaths each year. Patient survival is largely dependent on early diagnosis and intervention. Accordingly, there is an urgent need for novel diagnostic parameters as well as molecular determinants of clinical outcome, which would allow for the targeted treatment of patients at risk of relapse. Especially in stage II patients, the identification of biomarkers predicting the recurrence of the disease is an unmet clinical need.

Understanding molecular mechanisms that govern cellular communication and signalling in the healthy organism as well as in pathological conditions, such as inflammation and cancer, is a prerequisite for the development of targeted therapeutic intervention. Currently, our group has a very profound interest in dissecting the different resistance mechanisms in CRC by focusing on metabolic changes in tumor cells and cell of the microenvironment (TME). We are especially interested in tumor-initiating cells (TICs), also called cancer stem cells as well as in the TME (stromal cells and microbiome). Over the last years, we have been successful in establishing primary TIC-enriched cultures as well as primary fibroblast cultures directly from patient tumor tissue. Furthermore, our group has recently established the so called “mini -guts” (or organoids) that represent a functional colon. These represent powerful tools to test for new CRC therapies.

Current research domains:

  • Molecular mechanisms underlying colon cancer initiation and development
  • Role of microenvironment factors on colon cancer
  • Identification of biomarkers and therapeutic targets in colon cancer