Clinical Cooperation Unit Dermato-Oncology

Prof. Dr. Jochen Utikal

Primary malignant melanoma

The Dermato-Oncology Clinical Cooperation Unit is engaged in the diagnosis and therapy of skin tumors. Research results obtained are transferred directly into clinical practice. The main focus is on malignant melanoma, a tumor that originates from the pigment cells of the skin. The Dermato-Oncology Clinical Cooperation Unit conducts several translational research projects, including different Phase I–IV clinical trials, with innovative melanoma therapies.
Basic science researchers in the department work on stem cell features of melanoma cells, immunosuppression in melanoma, target identification to overcome resistance mechanisms and prognostic and predictive melanoma biomarker.

The Dermato-Oncology Clinical Cooperation Unit will be engaged in basic and translational research as well as in the diagnosis and therapy of skin tumors such as malignant melanoma. Different clinical trials including investigator initiated clinical trials (IITs) to improve therapeutic options for the treatment of this tumor type will be conducted.
A major focus of the department is stem cell research and plasticity of melanoma cells. Embryonic stem cells and tumor cells have many aspects in common, including immortal cell growth and the potential for forming tumors. Furthermore, melanoma cells can be transformed into a pluripotent state via ectopic expression of sets of transcription factors. The mechanism behind this plasticity will be studied. In addition, we plan to study the immune system response to the plasticity of different melanoma subpopulations. Accordingly, immune cells such as myeloid derived suppressor cells, regulatory T cells and tolerogenic dendritic cells will be studied in human melanoma lesions and in our ret transgenic mouse melanoma model. Metabolic and signaling pathways in immunosuppressive cells, responsible for the production of mediators blocking antitumor activity of effector and memory T cells, will also be examined.


Prof. Dr. Jochen Utikal
Dermato-Oncology (G300)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 621 383 4461

Selected Publications

  • Knappe N. et al. (2016). Directed de-differentiation using partial reprogramming induces invasive phenotype in melanoma cells. Stem Cells, 34(4), 832-846.
  • Gebhardt C et al. (2015). Myeloid Cells and Related Chronic Inflammatory Factors as Novel Predictive Markers in Melanoma Treatment with Ipilimumab. Clin Cancer Res, 21(24), 5453-5459.
  • Long G.V. et al. (2015). Dabrafenib and trametinib versus dabrafenib and placebo for Val600 BRAF-mutant melanoma: a multicentre, double-blind, phase 3 randomised controlled trial. Lancet, 386(9992), 444-51.
  • Van Allen E.M. et al. (2015). Genomic correlates of response to CTLA-4 blockade in metastatic melanoma. Science, 350(6257), 207-211.
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