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Universitätsklinikum Essen

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Studien & Forschung

Research topics

Cancer cells can subvert normal tissue architecture and reprogram the activity of stromal cells to their advantage. Tumor-regulated vascularization, the recruitment of inflammatory cells and the activation of resident cells are important stromal events that promote the survival, invasion and metastasis of cancer cells. We and others have shown that tumor infiltrating cells (e.g., T cells, neutrophils, macrophages) play a key role in tumorigenesis, but also influence the efficacy and resistance of therapy in malignant melanoma (MM).

The group is interested in understanding the multifactorial steps of melanoma metastasis and the reciprocal communication of tumor cells with cells of the microenvironment with regard to cancer therapy. Besides the known immune functions of tumor infiltrates, these cells have recently become of major interests since targeting “immune checkpoints” have become the most promising approach for activating therapeutic antitumor activity. Thus, a better insight into molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying on tumor-stroma interaction with regard to tumor cell plasticity but also the impact of tumor-infiltrating inflammatory cells will help to pave the way forward new anti-cancer therapies.

In our lab we use several state-of-the-art 2D/3D in vitro assays to monitor cell function and activation of signaling pathways in real time, but we also use various experimental tumor models (xenotransplantation / genetically controlled spontaneous melanoma models) and intravital imaging / high-resolution microscopy to identify tumor modulating mechanisms and validate therapeutic intervention under dynamic environmental conditions.

  • Molecular and functional analysis of tumor/stoma interactions controlling site-specific metastasis in MM
  • Experimental modelling and functional genomics of melanoma brain metastases
  • Mechanisms of intrinsic and adaptive resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors in MM
  • Clinical impact & biological function of the immune checkpoint protein CEACAM1
  • Targeting K-Ras in solid tumors
  • “DNA helicases in genome maintenance: from molecular and cellular mechanisms to specific inhibitors as potential drugs (AntiHelix)”, Horizon 2020, EU, Marie S. Curie Innovative Training Network
  • “Unraveling the phenotypic coevolution of melanoma cells and neutrophils fostering metastasis and therapy resistance”, DFG, Klinische Forscherguppe 337 “PhenoTImE” (no AoBJ: 655554)
  • “Role of HSD11B1-mediated glucocorticoide activation in melanoma pathobiology and immunotherapy resistance”; Co-PI with M. Hölzel, UK Bonn, Deutsche Krebshilfe (no 70113168)
  • “Preventing outgrowth of brain metastases under immunotherapy: Driving T-cells to the brain”; Co-PI with D. Schadendorf UKE Essen, Deutsche Krebshilfe „Priority Programm Translationale Onkologie“ (no 70112507)
  • RIST - Ras Inhibition in soliden Tumoren, Horizon 2020 EU Life Sciences NRW (no 0800.951 LS-1-2-001d)
  • “Identifizierung und therapeutische Validierung von NK-Zell-vermittelten „immune-escape“ Mechanismen bei der Etablierung zerebraler Melanommetastasen unter Einsatz des ersten, präklinischen Modells für spontane Hirnmetastasierung”, Monika Kutzner Stiftung
  • “Tumorgenetisches Untersuchung von Hirnmetastasen des malignen Melanoms zur Identifizierung klinisch-relevanter Zielstrukturen“ -Präklinische Modelle versus klinische Situation“, Hiege Stiftung gegen Hautkrebs
  • “Erforschung der molekularen Grundlage des MIA-Proteins bei der Metastasierung im malignen Melanom”, Else Kröner-Fresenius Stiftung
  • “Untersuchung der funktionellen Relevanz existierender Isoformen des Tumorsupressors CEACAM1 und deren klinisch Signifikanz beim malignen Melanom”, Hiege Stiftung gegen Hautkrebs
  • “Recruitment of Tie2-macrophages to the tumor site: Impact on anti-angiogenic therapy resistance in malignant melanoma”, Melanoma International Foundation
  • “Characterization of anti-VEGF-resistant, low-angiogenic tumor phenotypes in the spontaneous melanoma model MT/ret”, Industrial Support
  • “Analysis of preventive and therapeutic effects of a new multi kinase inhibitor in the spontaneous melanoma model MT/ret”, Industrial Support

PD Dr. rer. nat. Iris Helfrich

PD Dr. rer. nat. Iris Helfrich

Head „Vascular Oncology & Metastasis“

0201 723 1648 E-Mail schreiben Zum Steckbrief