Head & Neck

A personalized multi-omics discovery and validation platform for recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (POLARES)

Group Giger   Head and Neck Anticancer Center
                                  POLARES Research Group

Diagnostic and therapeutic developments in recent years have improved the prognosis for patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Despite these developments, a significant proportion of patients relapse after an initial response to standard treatment. Salvage treatment options are limited, and personalized treatment approaches that consider the genomic/epigenetic landscape of the tumor are lacking. The goal of this research is to establish a center of excellence in HNSCC that bridges the gap between genomic analysis and translation of findings into clinical trials. By establishing a multi-omics discovery and validation platform under the umbrella of the University Cancer Center Inselspital (UCI), this consortium (ORL, Head and Neck Surgery; Medical Oncology; Radiation-Oncology) aims to determine how alterations at the genomic and epigenetic level regulate carcinogenesis, treatment response and resistance in HNSCC and thereby identify novel mechanisms to target tumor relapse.

On behalf of the Consortium:
Prof. Dr. Roland Giger (Lead), Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery; PD Dr. Olgun Elicin, Radio-Oncology; Dr. Simon Häfliger, Medical Oncology; PD Dr. Michaela Medová, Radio-Oncology, DBMR; Prof. Dr. Carsten Riether, Medical Oncology, DBMR; Dr. Daniel H. Schanne, Radio-Oncology

Lung Cancer and Non-Coding RNAs (ncRNAs)

Group Häfliger  Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related death worldwide. Our research delves into the intriguing world of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), RNA molecules that do not translate into proteins.

  1. MicroRNAs (miRNAs): These tiny RNA molecules can act as either tumor suppressors or oncogenes, influencing cancer development.

  2. Long Non-Coding RNAs (lncRNAs): These longer RNA molecules impact gene expression and are central to epigenetic regulation.

Using public databases, blood of lung cancer patients, cancer cell lines and bioinformatics tools, we investigate specific ncRNAs with the aim to explore:

  • Diagnostic Biomarkers: Can circulating ncRNAs serve as early indicators of lung cancer?

  • Mechanisms of Action: How do these ncRNAs influence cancer progression?

  • Predictive and Prognostic Markers: Can they guide treatment decisions?

In summary, our work bridges the gap between complex scientific research and practical applications, unraveling the mysteries of ncRNAs in lung cancer to improve patient outcomes and treatment strategies.

Oncogenic signaling via receptor tyrosine kinases in crosstalk with DNA damage repair

Group Medova   Tyrosine kinase receptors activate a wide range of different cellular signaling pathways. Physiologically, intact signaling via the MET receptor is indispensable in embryonic development and tissue homeostasis. At the same time, MET dysregulation promotes features clearly associated with tumor growth and progression such as uncontrolled proliferation, angiogenesis, local invasion, and systemic dissemination. Accumulating data suggest that MET signaling may also protect tumor cells from DNA damage, hence relating its aberrant activity to resistance to DNA-damaging agents routinely used in cancer treatment. We have identified a previously unreported phosphorylation site on MET, which can be recognized by DNA damage master kinases and is involved not only in cellular responses towards DNA damage, but also in metastatic processes, cancer cell migration, and anchorage-independent growth. This project aims at dissecting the nature, function, and regulation of this phosphorylation site in oncogenic signaling of the receptor.