Division of Tumor Virology

Prof. Dr. Jean Rommelaere

Treatment of an intracerebral rat glioma with parvovirus H-1 (H-1PV). MRI of a rat brain bearing a glioma, at the time of infection with H-1PV (left), and 8 days later (right), showing disappearance of the tumor after infection.
© dkfz.de

Our Division is focused on “Anti-Tumor Virology”, the objective being to develop oncolytic viruses (preferentially killing tumor cells) and viral vectors (transferring therapeutic genes into diseased (including cancer) cells). Our activities have led to the launching of the first virotherapy clinical trial in Germany, using the oncolytic parvovirus H-1PV to treat malignant gliomas. Based on virus safety and first signs of anti-tumor activity, a second clinical study of H-1PV in pancreatic cancer patients has been launched recently. Three main research axes are presently being developed:

  1. Basic investigation of the interactions of oncolytic parvoviruses (PV) with host cells, in particular
    (i) cellular markers predictive of tumor responsiveness to PV treatment,
    (ii) PV determinants of host range,
    (iii) molecular pathways involved in PV oncotoxic properties,
    (iv) mechanisms of PV immunomodulating effects;

  2. Preclinical assessment of the anticancer potential of PV, including (i) evaluation of the applicability of PV therapy to malignancies in children and adolescents, (ii) development of novel anticancer strategies based on second generation PV (vectors) and combination treatments, (iii) production of recombinant PV for the delivery of cyto- and chemokines into tumors and their microenvironment;

  3. Our Virus Production & Development Unit standardizes protocols for virus application to humans, and supports trial-accompanying research.

Basic research will be pursued to unravel the cellular and parvoviral determinants of cell permissiveness and killing, respectively. This program is expected to contribute to identifying patients susceptible to oncolytic virus based treatments (“customized” therapy). Furthermore, our ambition is also to understand and optimize the interplay between parvovirus oncolytic effects and host anti-tumor immune responses. On the translational level, our work aims to broaden the range of indications for a potential H-1PV-based oncolytic virotherapy, and to increase the oncosuppressive capacity of PV through adaptation and engineering. Furthermore, in order to prepare future clinical trials, optimal treatment strategies combining parvoviruses with different classes of antineoplastic and immunomodulating agents will be tested, using various in vitro and in vivo models. Another focus of the Group lies on research accompanying the clinical trials of H-1 parvovirus in cancer patients. Of particular interest is the investigation of viral effects not only on the neoplastic compartment but also on the tumor microenvironment modulating anti-cancer immune responses.


Prof. Dr. Jean Rommelaere
Tumor Virology (F010)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 242
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 42 4960
Fax: +49 6221 42 4962

Selected Publications

  • Bär S. et al. (2015). PKCn/Rdx-driven phosphorylation of PDK1: a novel mechanism promoting cancer cell survival and permissiveness for parvovirus-induced lysis. PLoS Pathog, 11(3): e1004703.
  • Geletneky K. et al. (2015). Double-faceted mechanism of parvoviral oncosuppression. Curr Opin Virol, 13, 17-24.
  • Li J. et al. (2013). Synergistic combination of valproic acid and oncolytic parvovirus H-1PV as a potential therapy against cervical and pancreatic carcinomas. EMBO Mol Med, 5(10), 1537–1555.
  • Nüesch J.P.F. et al (2012). Molecular pathways: rodent parvoviruses: mechanisms of oncolysis and prospects for clinical cancer treatment. Clin Cancer Res, 18(13), 3516–3523.
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