Molecular Lung Carcinogenesis

“The research of the lung carcinogenesis group is focused on the pathobiology of lung and pleural malignancies, including early carcinogenesis and late dissemination.”

The main research questions the group is striving to address are:

  • What are the cells of origin of lung and pleural tumors, what are the transcriptional programs conferring them self-renewal and stemness potentials, and how can they be actioned against?
  • How does the cancer genome of these malignancies evolve in time and space following the initial oncogenic hit till full-blown cancer develops?
  • What are the mechanisms of oncogenic and non-oncogenic addiction in thoracic tumors and how can they be targeted for therapy?
  • How does the mutant respiratory epithelium and pleural mesothelium initiate, sustain, and fine-tune thoracic tumor-associated inflammation?
  • How do mutant oncogenes interact with host cells in early and late thoracic malignancies?
  • How does the immune system impact tumor progression in the respiratory tract and the pleural cavities and how can it be modulated to combat thoracic cancers?
  • How does the immune system contribute to acquired resistance of lung and pleural tumors to therapy?

The group is using animal models of environmental carcinogen- and oncogene-induced lung adenocarcinoma and malignant pleural mesothelioma to recapitulate early thoracic tumor development in mice. They also use transplantable models of lung adenocarcinoma and malignant pleural mesothelioma to reproduce advanced disease in animals in order to study thoracic tumor phenotypes such as metastasis to the lungs and other organs or malignant pleural effusion. Studies are coupled with in vitro investigations on isolated tumor cells, immune and endothelial cells, as well as co-cultures of the above. The group also uses high-throughput in vivo imaging techniques, including bioluminescence and biofluorescence imaging, in order to track tumor and immune cell fate, to quantify tumor or immune cell-restricted transcriptional activity, as well as to monitor the biodistribution of tumor-targeted therapies. Human samples from patients with thoracic tumors from an extended biobank at LMU Gauting are also accessible to the group for corroboration of key findings.