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Cells in the tumour environment play an important role in bowel cancer

Image: Colourbox.de

New research unit to study microenvironment in order to develop targeted therapies

A new research unit involving FAU, Goethe University Frankfurt and the University of Regensburg aims to investigate the fundamental mechanisms behind the development of bowel cancer. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the project for an initial period of three years with 3.5 million euros.

Bowel cancer remains one of the most common cancers in adults. Despite significant advances in diagnosis and therapy, the treatment available for colorectal cancer is still insufficient. It has been discovered that this is due to the fact that not only the tumour cells themselves but also immune cells and connective tissue cells in the tumour’s direct environment, known an the tumour microenvironment, have a significant effect on tumour growth.

The cellular composition of this microenvironment and the properties of the cells involved vary greatly and interact with one another. Certain mutations in tumour cells can change the composition of the tumour stroma – the connective tissue that supports it. At the same time, the cells in the tumour stroma have a significant effect on the growth of the tumour cells, which in turn affects the likelihood of therapy being successful. Most of the standard therapies available only target the tumour cells and do not influence possible changes in the tumour microenvironment.

The research unit ‘Cell Plasticity in Colorectal Carcinogenesis’ led by Prof. Dr. Florian R. Greten, director of Georg-Speyer-Haus Institute for Tumour Biology and Experimental Therapy and a professor at Goethe University Frankfurt, now aims to unravel the complex molecular and cellular relationships in the tumour microenvironment in bowel cancer and to test new therapy concepts. ‘We hope to find ways of changing the tumour microenvironment that will improve response to standard therapies or, ideally, to develop entirely new therapy concepts for treating colorectal cancer,’ Professor Greten explains. Prof. Dr. Markus Neurath, a professor at FAU’s Chair of Internal Medicine I, emphasises: ‘In the medium term our goal is to transfer such concepts to clinical practice so that they can benefit patients.’

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Markus Neurath
Phone: +49 9131 8535204

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