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Universitätsklinikum Essen
Studien & Forschung

Research topics

Cancer cells can subvert the 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 key stromal events promoting cancer cell survival, invasion and metastasis. We and others have shown that tumor-infiltrating cells (e.g. T-cells, neutrophils, macrophages) play key parts in tumorigenesis but also impact therapy efficacy and resistance.

The group is interested to understand the multifactorial steps of melanoma metastasis and the reziprocal communication of tumor cells with cells of the microenvironment in 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 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 multiple 2D/3D in vitro assays to monitor in real time cellular functions and pathway activation but also use different experimental tumor models (xenotransplantation/ transgenically-driven spontaneous melanoma models) to identify tumor-modulating mechanisms and validate therapeutic intervention under dynamic environmental conditions.

Current Projects

  • Molecular and functional analysis of tumor/stoma interactions controlling site-specific metastasis
  • Clinical impact & biological function of the immune checkpoint protein CEACAM1
  • Mechanisms of intrinsic and adaptive resistance
  • Experimental modelling and functional genomics of melanoma brain metastases
  • Immune modulatory effects of proton therapy (shared project with Prof. B. Timmermann/ Dr. H. Thomas, West German Proton Center)
PD Dr. rer. nat. Iris Helfrich

PD Dr. rer. nat. Iris Helfrich

Group Leader

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