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Making cancer stem cells visible to the immune system - New results may enable innovative treatment concept against leukemia

Leukemia stem cells protect themselves against the immune defense by suppressing a target molecule for killer cells. This protective mechanism can be tricked with drugs. In the journal "Nature", scientists from Basel, Tübingen and Heidelberg describe the new therapeutic approaches that can possibly be derived from these results.

Deadline 15th September 2019

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Enzyme responsible for dangerous properties of brain tumor stem cells

The relapse of brain tumors after therapy is driven by cancer stem cells that were not affected by the treatment. In mouse models of glioblastoma, scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) were now looking for molecular markers that specifically characterize brain tumor stem cells. They identified an enzyme that is responsible for the threatening stem cell properties of glioblastoma and at the same time represents a possible "Achilles heel" where cancer stem cells could be vulnerable.

"Highly cited"

Nine DKFZ researchers in the top class

Scientists whose work is being cited very often by peers are regarded as exceptionally acknowledged and influential in their fields. Therefore, citation counts are a common benchmark for assessing the scientific performance of individual researchers. For 2018, nine scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) reached a top place in this assessment: They rank in the top 1% of the world's highly cited researchers for their field.

Lung cancer screening

Women benefit significantly

Is computed tomography suitable for detecting lung cancer at a very early stage and thus still well treatable? Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center have investigated this with the LUSI study started in 2007. The results of the study, which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Dietmar Hopp Foundation, are now available: Taken together, the screening slightly but not significantly reduced lung cancer mortality in both sexes. In contrast, the researchers observed a significant 69 percent reduction in relative risk among women. The results confirm comparable European studies which, taken together, provide strong arguments for the introduction of systematic lung cancer screening for high-risk groups.

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Synonymous Mutations

Not silent at all

The so-called "silent" or "synonymous" genetic alterations do not result in altered proteins. But they can nevertheless influence numerous functions of the cell and thus also disease processes. Scientists from the German Cancer Consortium, German Cancer Research Center, and the University of Freiburg have now created a comprehensive database of all synonymous mutations ever found in cancer. This is a "reference book" that provides cancer researchers with all available information on each of these supposedly "silent" mutations at a glance. Using the example of an important oncogene, the researchers show how synonymous mutations can influence the function of this cancer driver.

Stomach and colorectal cancer

Identifying patients at an early stage who are suitable for artificial intelligence immunotherapy.

Changes in certain sections of the genetic material of cancer cells, so-called microsatellites, can provide an important indication of whether immunotherapy may be successful in a patient with stomach or colorectal cancer. Scientists from Uniklinik RWTH Aachen, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), and the National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg (NCT) have developed an adaptive algorithm that can predict instability in microsatellites based directly on images of tissue samples. This could help to potentially identify patients at an early stage who could benefit from immunotherapy. The research results were published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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Cancer drugs promote stem cell properties of colorectal cancer

Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) and the Mannheim University Medical Center have now discovered that a certain group of cancer drugs (MEK Inhibitors) activates the cancer-promoting Wnt signalling pathway in colorectal cancer cells. This can lead to the accumulation of tumor cells with stem cell characteristics that are resistant to many therapies and can lead to relapses. The researchers thus provide a possible explanation for why these drugs are not effective in colorectal cancer.

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