Würzburg. The foundation for the promotion of cancer research at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg is once again supporting the scientific fight against tumor diseases: five projects will receive a total of 77,500 euros.
At the end of 2017, the Würzburg association “Help in the Fight Against Cancer” established a foundation under the name “Research Helps” to promote cancer research at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg.
Since then, the foundation has been distributing prize money to local scientists every year. Funds totaling 77,500 euros have now also been made available for 2021.
This is what the teams are researching
From the research applications received, the external and independent scientific advisory board of the foundation – made up of experts from the university hospitals in Essen, Jena and Regensburg – selected five projects this year, each of which will be funded with amounts between 10,000 and 17,500 euros.
Among the funding recipients is the working group of Dr. Sabrina Prommersberger and Prof. Dr. Michael Hudecek, both from the Medical Clinic II of the University Hospital Würzburg. Their goal is to make CAR-T cell therapy for multiple myeloma even more effective and safer.
While the CAR T cells used to date usually only have one CAR receptor, the Würzburg researchers are developing variants that have two of these docking points on their surface. This allows the modified killer cells to recognize and fight cancer cells even more precisely.
The team of Prof. Dr. Andreas Beilhack, also from Medical Clinic II, wants to create three-dimensional tumor models from bone marrow samples from myeloma patients.
Using these models, subtle changes in the tumor can be analyzed and the best possible therapy can be determined. With the knowledge gained from this, tumor mechanisms that suppress the body’s own immune response should be switched off in a targeted manner. Which cell structures of the bone marrow are involved in the development of resistance to new immunotherapies?
How does the bone marrow normalize after successful immunotherapy and thus protect against a recurrence of the cancer? What properties allow tumor cells to survive immunotherapy?
The working group led by Prof. Dr. Dominic Grün, Chair of “Computational Biology of Spatial Biomedical Systems” at the University of Würzburg, together with the team around Dr. Leo Rasche from Medical Clinic II.
The key technologies used are single-cell mRNA sequencing and the microscopy-based seqFISH method, combined with methods of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Like any healthy cell, cancer cells are surrounded by a coat of sugar molecules.
The working group of Prof. Dr. Martin Kortüm from Medical Clinic II wants to find out how changing the sugar structure on tumor cells influences the response to cancer therapy.
Ideally, approaches can be identified that can be used for therapeutic interventions.
uncover signaling pathways
Malignant tumor cells that detach from their cell structure manage to avoid the programmed cell death that is “usual” in such cases – an important prerequisite for the formation of metastases.
The mechanisms that tumor cells use for this are largely unknown.
The protein Ceacam1 seems to play an important role.
The interdisciplinary research team led by Dr. Florian Kleefeldt wants to uncover the signaling pathways through which Ceacam1 prevents programmed cell death.
In addition, it should be checked whether the protein is suitable as a therapeutic target structure for the prevention and treatment of metastatic tumors.
“We are very pleased that it was still possible to distribute funds at the end of 2021,” reports Gabriele Nelkenstock from the “Research Helps” Foundation Board.
For a long time it didn’t look like it, because the amount of donations last year was very low due to Corona. pm