Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR)

Research Groups

Medical Oncology

Experimental Research Programmes

Hemato-Oncology

Head Prof. Dr. med. Thomas Pabst

The molecular pathology of acute and chronic leukemia is being investigated using both cell line models as well as clinical material from patients. Experimental research in the lab is centered on the investigation of the molecular mechanisms underlying the leukemic onset, in particular in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). A hallmark of AML is the accumulation of myeloid precursor cells in the bone marrow. Characteristically, the malignant leukemic cells display a block in their normal differentiation process at particular stages. Research on the pathogenesis of AML is focused on the analysis of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes which deregulate proliferation and cell death in AML cells. Although the ultimate relationship between altered proliferation and differentiation in AML remains to be elucidated, our current concept indicates that deregulation of the tumor suppressor p53 and the transcription factor CEBPA critically affects both differentiation and apoptosis in AML cells. Novel p53 inducing agents are promising compounds for a targeted AML treatment and we are testing various targeted compounds in preclinical studies and have initiated clinical studies.

A specific focus of our research has been set on AML subtypes characterized by mutations of the myeloid key transcription factor CEBPA.  We have investigated both somatic and germline CEBPA mutations leading to sporadic and familial forms of AML. Although familial AML is a rare finding outside of a genetic syndrome, germline mutations appear to be present in up to 10% of AML patients with CEBPA mutations.

Mutations in a second key transcription factor GATA2 can cause myelodysplastic syndromes and AML. Here we are supporting the University Children Hospital Zurich to investigate familial forms of GATA2 deficiencies.

Please visit the external Group Website for more information.

Cancer Autophagy Group

Head PD Dr. med. Urban Novak 

Our independent research groups (longstanding collaboration with Prof. Mario Tschan, Institut of Pathology, University of Bern) are interested in the pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemia and malignant lymphomas. We share the interest on the possible role of autophagy in the pathology of these diseases. The discovery of possibly new therapeutic targets, particularly in a highly complex process such as autophagy, fully depends on the knowledge of any process in normal counterpart cells. Whether the autophagy recycling pathway is involved in the resistance of hematological and solid cancers against chemotherapeutic agents and targeted therapies is being analyzed in close collaboration with clinical pathologists.

Is autophagy a rational target in malignant lymphomas?
Malignant lymphomas comprise a variety of diseases. Multiple relapses with the need for new therapeutic targets are a fact. We therefore analyze the role of autophagy in lymphomas and their normal counterpart cells.

Molecular characterization of mediastinal lymphomas in siblings
Although rare, familial clustering of malignant lymphoma is a unique opportunity to unravel the pathogenesis of diseases. We have analyzed a family with two siblings affected with aggressive, mediastinal lymphomas with massively parallel whole-exome sequencing and array CGH.

Group Members: 8

Group Pabst

Group Novak

Group Schardt

Group Haefliger