Biomedical Science

At the Department of Medicine (Cancer Research), new strategies for improved and individualised tumour therapies are being developed under the direction of Prof. Martin Schuler. The focus here is on explaining the molecular mechanisms of resistance to chemotherapies and immune treatments with antibodies. The researchers have developed a procedure for breaking the resistance of tumours resistant to antibody therapies. Pre-clinical tests will be carried out on these pharmacological methods at the West German Tumour Centre.
The laboratory of Prof. Dirk Schadendorf at the Department of Dermatology investigates the role of the body's defences in the fight against tumours. Various immune effectors, such as natural killer cells and T cells, are capable of differentiating between normal and malignant cells and killing the latter. In a mouse model for malignant melanoma, the scientists were able to study the role of the cytotoxic T cells and their success in destroying tumour cells in detail.
B lymphocytes represent the white blood cells which are responsible for the production of antibodies. In rare cases, B cells can degenerate and develop into tumour cells (B-cell leukaemia). In 2009, Prof. Ralf Küppers' team of researchers at the Institute for Cell Biology identified a new tumour suppressor gene with an important role in the formation of multiple types of lymphoma. In the process they were able to contribute new results to a controversial discussion: the researchers found genetic evidence suggesting that a large population of memory B cells, which produce antibodies of the type IgM, exists in humans. These findings additionally give insights into the origin and maturation process of this B cell type and therefore have important implications for treatment of immune diseases.
The Institute for Cell Biology is also investigating the molecular mechanisms of stress-induced cell death processes through chemo and radiation therapy. Prof. Verena Jendrossek is working specifically on the identification of new targets for prevention and therapy of prostate carcinoma. The laboratory of Prof. George Iliakis (Institute of Radiation Biology) has established alternative mechanisms of double-stranded DNA repair following irradiation of mammalian cells. The laboratory of Prof. Monica Palmada (Institute of Molecular Biology) is analysing the role of membrane transporters and ion channels in the radiation sensitivity of cells, in particular breast cancer cells.