Research Group for Inflammatory Carcinogenesis

Chronic inflammation, for instance as a result of viral infection, smoking, or heavy alcohol abuse, increases the risk of cancer.  Aside from tumor cells, many inflammatory and immune cells can be found in tumors. This includes gastrointestinal tumors such as ductal pancreas adenocarcinoma (PDAC) on which our examinations are focused.

The enrichment of inflammatory cells in tissue leads to increased release of inflammatory mediators such as cytokines, growth factors, or reactive oxygen species. In addition, immune cells, e.g. macrophages, T-cells but also myofibroblasts in the correspondingly exposed epithelial cells contribute considerably to dedifferentiation and apoptosis resistance, which gives these cells early malignant properties. These tumour-stroma interactions also contribute significantly to tumour progression in the primary tumour and metastases by promoting the growth and cancer stem cell properties of tumour cells, the dissemination of tumour cells into secondary organs, the formation of metastases, the development of immune escape mechanisms and resistance to therapy.

The aim of the research group is to gain a better understanding of the complex molecular and cellular interactions through which inflammatory processes contribute to both tumour development and the growth of metastases. The aim is to identify novel target structures that can be used to improve the diagnosis and therapy of particularly malignant tumors such as PDAC.  Our investigations are based on the use of different coculture models with epithelial (tumor) cell lines and different (inflammatory) stroma cells in vitro to simulate tumor-stromal interaction in the primary tumor as well as in the metastatic context, followed by expression and functional analyses. In addition, we try to consider evolutionary biological principles in our investigations in order to gain a better understanding of phenomena such as therapy resistance and to develop and test novel therapeutic strategies based on this understanding.  Furthermore, we validate our findings in collaboration with colleagues from general surgery, visceral, thoracic, transplantation and pediatric surgery in preclinical studies and by means of analyses of tissue and blood samples from tumor patients from the oncological biobank BMB-CCC. Our work is carried out in close interdisciplinary cooperation with various clinics and institutes of the UKSH/CAU, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön and numerous national and international cooperation partners.