PhD Student

Phone: +49 6221 42 3823


Scientific CV

Since Oct 2019
PhD student, jointly between Immunotherapy and Immunoprevention, DKFZ, Heidelberg, Germany and the Cell Biology Research Unit (URBC) – Namur Research Institute for Life Sciences (NARILIS), University of Namur, Namur, Belgium

MSc Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Namur, Namur, Belgium

BSc Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Namur, Namur, Belgium


Research Project

Investigation of immunological factors contributing to the increased radiosensitivity of HPV-driven compared to HPV-negative head and neck cancer

Despite the fact that several strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) significantly increase the risk to develop malignancies, including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), the prognosis and treatment response of HPV-driven HNSCC is considerably better than of HPV-negative HNSCC. Importantly, HPV-driven HNSCC exhibit increased radiosensitivity when compared to their HPV-negative counterparts. While cancer cell intrinsic factors partially explain the observed difference, the immune response also seems to play a major role in the differential radiation response.

This project aims to determine if HPV-related immunogenicity of HNSCC cancer cells after irradiation favors an efficient anti-cancer immune response and immune-memory formation, improving HNSCC response to radiation treatment. We address the difference in immunogenicity of HPV-driven and HPV-negative HNSCC before and after radiation, and assess how immunogenic cell death and dendritic cell maturation is changed. With our mass spectrometry (MS)-based epitope detection pipeline, we investigate if there is a connection between the increased radiosensitivity of HPV-driven HNSCC and a possible increased presentation of either HPV-encoded epitopes and/or mutation-derived neoepitopes after irradiation and compared to HPV-negative HNSCC. Finally, the therapeutic relevance of immunogenicity-related radiosensitivity will be determined by combining radiotherapy with immune-checkpoint blockage and therapeutic vaccination in orthotopic mouse models.

Resulting Publications

Enhanced radiation sensitivity of human papillomavirus-driven head and neck cancer: focus on immunological aspects.
Özcan-Wahlbrink M, Schifflers C, Riemer AB.
Frontiers in Immunology 2019, 10: 2831.

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