Identification of target structures and therapy prediction

© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM

Currently, one in four deaths is caused by cancer, mainly as a result of systemic spread and metastatic disease. Despite new drugs, the currently available therapies are effective only in one in four cancer patients.This could be due to the finding that primary tumors and disseminated tumor cells differ considerably in both genotype and phenotype, so that the target cells of therapies cannot be inferred directly from the properties of the primary tumor.

To reduce the time required for development of novel systemic therapies, companion diagnostic tests are thus needed to enable prediction of whether disseminated tumor cells will respond to the treatment.

© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM

Tumor cells display high heterogeneity in their genetic and phenotypic characteristics. Depending on the individual cancer, different enrichment and detection methods thus have to be applied to enable detection of the rare circulating and disseminated tumor cells (CTCs and DTCs). With some tumors, expression analysis of characteristic marker proteins (e.g. cytokeratins in breast or prostate cancer) is an option, while in other cases the cells can be detected via physical properties such as size or deformability, which differs between tumor cells and normal cells in blood or other organs. Detection of the cells alone, however, does not yet provide clues to appropriate therapeutic intervention. Besides isolation of pure cell populations down to a single tumor cell, this requires sensitive and reliable molecular analyses. One of our core competencies in this context is the analysis of expressed genes and genomic DNA of the same cell in parallel.

Projects

 

Identification of novel target structures on the actual target cells of systemic therapies

Therapy decision making based on the molecular properties of CTCs

 

“Liquid biopsies” for early detection of therapy resistance

Shift in paradigm in lymph node diagnostics