Infection, Inflammation and Cancer

Research Program

Infection, Inflammation and Cancer

Research Program

Infection, Inflammation and Cancer

Coordinator Prof. Dr. Ralf Bartenschlager

Approximately one in five incidences of cancer is triggered by an infection. Most of them are caused by viruses, but bacteria and parasites may also play an important role in cancer development. Thus, the research program “Infection and Cancer” investigates which pathogens are able to promote cancer, the mechanisms that underlie these cancer processes, and how the human body protects itself against these pathogens. The work within the research program is based on four major aspects:

  1. Basic research on the molecular mechanisms of infection and cancer
  2. Development of new diagnostic approaches for cancer-relevant pathogens
  3. Establishment of innovative treatment approaches for infection-related cancers
  4. Development of vaccines and antivirals against cancer-relevant pathogens and viruses of relevance for patients undergoing immune-depleting cancer therapy
Furthermore, epidemiological studies help us to discover unknown associations between infections and cancer in addition to evaluate the efficacy of vaccinations and therapies. Moreover, studies within the research program investigate strategies using viruses as tools for therapy; modified viruses can kill cancer cells directly, can be used in vaccine development or adapted for gene therapy. Finally, strategies to combat noroviruses are been developed, since these infections can have major complications in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Research projects in this program cover the following areas:
  • Pathogens and Cancer:
    • Analysis of pathogens for which there is a clear or suspected association to cancer
    • Identification of previously unknown pathogens in tumors and other chronic diseases
    • Mechanisms of interactions between pathogens and patient
    • Role of inflammatory processes in the course of cancer development
  • Diagnosis and epidemiology of infection-related cancers
    • Development of new approaches for diagnosis using blood or tissue samples, based on detection of specific antibodies or the genetic material of the pathogen.
    • Investigation of the relationship between the presence of certain pathogens in medical samples and the development of Tumors
  • Development of novel therapeutic approaches
    • Viruses as direct inhibitors of tumor growth
    • Establishment of viruses and non-viral vectors for tumor and gene therapy
  • Development and application of novel vaccines and antivirals
    • Establishment of novel and improvements on existing pre-clinical models for vaccine development
    • Development of vaccines against Epstein-Barr virus
    • Follow-up studies of vaccinations against cervical cancer (human papilloma virus vaccine) and expansion of vaccine application range in clinics
    • Development of antivirals against clinically relevant human noroviruses
Further detailed information can be found on the home pages of the individual research department and groups of this research program.

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The DKFZ-ZMBH-Alliance is a strategic alliance between the Research Program Cell and Tumor Biology and the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University.

Research Results

Here you can find our latest press releases.

Junior Research Groups

At German Cancer Research Center the following Junior Research Groups have been established.

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