Cancer Therapy & Mol. Imaging Head: Dr. R. Ullrich
(Krebstherapie & Molekulare Bildgebung)
Focuses of Research
‘Cancer Therapy’, an associated research group from Department I of Internal Medicine is using the molecular imaging facilities at the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research to study the efficacy of targeted cancer therapies.
Blocking signal pathways to combat tumors
In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that cancer is a hereditary disease. Mutations of the cell genome transform healthy cells into tumor cells. These mutated genes – known as oncogenes – drive tumor cell proliferation and growth by making tumor cells essentially dependent on certain signal pathways within the cells. Targeted inhibition of these signal pathways can prevent the formation of new tumor cells and initiate programmed cell death in existing ones. The efficacy of such cancer therapies is being assessed by the research team of Dr Roland Ullrich both in vitro and in vivo in an experimental model of lung carcinoma. For this project, they are working in close collaboration with the Max-Planck research group “Functional Cancer Genomics”.
No proliferation of tumor cells without blood
Another focus of the team’s research is the study of anti-angiogenic therapies. These therapies specifically target the blood supply to the tumor. The aim is to reduce the blood supply to the point that the tumor cells obtain no more nutrients or oxygen, the point of interest being the molecular mechanisms promoting the growth of tumor blood vessels. In-vitro techniques (Western blot, ELISA, PCR, IP etc) are used to elucidate the molecular basis of the signal transduction cascades responsible for tumor angiogenesis. In the long-term, we seek to translate pre-clinical findings into clinical application. This is done in close collaboration with the Center for Integrated Oncology Köln Bonn (CIO).
The methodological approach
Molecular imaging allows molecular processes specific to particular diseases to be observed non-invasively in vivo. Dr Ullrich’s team is using positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and bioluminescence imaging (BLI) to study the efficacy of targeted therapies against cancer cells. These procedures allow tumor-specific metabolic processes to be observed in patients as well as animal models. The radioactively labeled tracers required are produced on site by the institute’s Radiochemistry Research & Service Group. So for example, 18F-FLT PET has been used successfully in patients with malignant brain tumors to quantify tumor cell proliferation. The main aim of targeted cancer therapies is to inhibit tumor cell proliferation. With the aid of molecular imaging, Dr Ullrich and his team hope to develop new treatments specifically targeting tumor growth.
In vivo illustration of Erlotinib therapy efficacy in a Xenograft mouse model: The figure shows successful targeted EGFR inhibition in Erlotinib-sensitive (top) but none in Erlotinib-resistant non-small lung cancer. Obtained by [18F]FLT PET.
Reserach topics as headlines:
Validating the efficacy of targeted cancer therapies based on
VEGF:VEGFR-2 signaling in tumor cells and its role for inducing an angiogenic phenotype in non small cell lung cancer
"Molekulare Basis und Modulation der zellulären Interaktionen im Tumormikromilieu"
SFB ins Leben gerufen 2009