Research Group Infections and Cancer Epidemiology

Dr. Tim Waterboer

About 20% of all cancer cases worldwide are associated with infections. The main etiologic agents are

  • Human Papillomaviruses (HPV) which are associated with cervical and other anogenital cancers, and oropharyngeal cancer
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that causes gastric cancer
  • Hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV, HCV) which cause hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) which is associated with Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • Human Herpesvirus 8 (HHV8), or Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), causing Kaposi sarcoma
However, the number of cancer cases attributable to infections is likely underestimated, and most of the infectious agents mentioned above may also cause other cancers, e.g. HPV and non-oropharyngeal head and neck cancer, or H. pylori and other gastrointestinal cancers. Moreover, additional infectious agents have been associated with cancer development, e.g. Chlamydia trachomatis and ovarian cancer. Our main aim is to investigate these less firmly established associations, and to discover novel markers based on serological detection for early disease detection, or as progression markers.

To this end, we have developed a high-throughput serological method (“Multiplex Serology”), which allows analyzing up to 2000 serum samples per day for antibodies to up to 100 different antigens simultaneously. We have successfully developed serological assays for all infectious agents mentioned above, and many others:
  • HPV
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Human Polyomaviruses
  • Hepatitis B and C viruses
  • Human Herpesviruses HSV-1 and -2, VZV, CMV, EBV, and KSHV
  • liRetroviruses HIV, HTLV-1
  • Chlamydia trachomatis
  • Rubella, Tetanus, Diphteria
  • Mycoplasma genitalium
  • Streptococcus gallolyticus
  • Fusobacterium nucleatum
  • Parvovirus B19
  • As well as many tumor-associated antigens involved in e.g. colorectal carcinoma, ovarian cancer, or Multiple Sclerosis
In addition to multiplex serology, we develop whole proteome microarrays of bacteria (e.g., C. trachomatis, H. pylori) for de novo antigen identification, and correlate host genetics (e.g., GWAS, HLA) and the humoral immune response in genetic epidemiological studies.

We collaborate worldwide with many clinical and epidemiological partners to analyze large-scale seroepidemiological studies. For HPV nucleic acid detection methods, the Infections and Cancer Epidemiology group works closely with the group of Dr. Michael Pawlita.


Dr. Tim Waterboer
Infections and Cancer Epidemiology (F022)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 42 4948
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