“Personalized Tumor Therapy” at Fraunhofer ITEM – project group will become an institute division

Press release / 7.12.2016

(Hannover, Germany) The Fraunhofer Project Group for Personalized Tumor Therapy will become a division of the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine ITEM in Hannover as of January 2017 and will thus be included in the financing model of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM

Isolation of a single disseminated cancer cell by micromanipulation. Knowledge about the characteristics of such a single cell provides the basis for development of more effective systemic therapies.

The project group was founded in December 2010 as a research collaboration between the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Land of Bavaria, and the University of Regensburg. During the past five years, the team of scientists in Regensburg has been organizationally attached to the Fraunhofer ITEM in Hannover, funded by the Bavarian government.

After a successful evaluation process, at the end of November 2016 the Bund-Länder committee officially decided to include the Group for Personalized Tumor Therapy into the steady financing of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The research group in Regensburg will henceforth be financed according to the Fraunhofer model: about one third each of the required funding will come from contract research for industry, publicly funded research projects, and basic funding from the German federal (90 %) and Land (10 %) governments. In addition, the new division will receive 1.6 million euros of investment capital – provided one half each by the federal and Land governments.

The Project Group for Personalized Tumor Therapy includes about 25 scientists, headed by Prof. Christoph Klein, who is also holding the Chair of Experimental Medicine and Therapy Research of the University of Regensburg. The group’s focus is on the development of diagnostic tests to enable detection of disseminated cancer cells early in the disease and prediction of the response to therapy of metastatic progenitor cells. The newly developed methods for single-cell analysis enable detection and comprehensive characterization of disseminated cancer cells, which are extremely rare. These analyses will then allow targeted development of systemic therapies that promise to be more effective than the therapies so far available. Central to this research approach is 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. The expertise of this research group is focused on genome and transcriptome analyses of single cells, bioinformatics analyses of high-dimensional single-cell data, development of novel diagnostic and predictive tests, and development of in-vitro and in-vivo models for preclinical testing of systemic therapy approaches.