Cookie Settings

We use cookies to optimize our website. These include cookies that are necessary for the operation of the site, as well as those that are only used for anonymous statistic. You can decide for yourself which categories you want to allow. Further information can be found in our data privacy protection .


These cookies are necessary to run the core functionalities of this website and cannot be disabled.

Name Webedition CMS
Purpose This cookie is required by the CMS (Content Management System) Webedition for the system to function correctly. Typically, this cookie is deleted when the browser is closed.
Name econda
Purpose Session cookie emos_jcsid for the web analysis software econda. This runs in the “anonymized measurement” mode. There is no personal reference. As soon as the user leaves the site, tracking is ended and all data in the browser are automatically deleted.

These cookies help us understand how visitors interact with our website by collecting and analyzing information anonymously. Depending on the tool, one or more cookies are set by the provider.

Name econda
Purpose Statistics
External media

Content from external media platforms is blocked by default. If cookies from external media are accepted, access to this content no longer requires manual consent.

Name YouTube
Purpose Show YouTube content
Name Twitter
Purpose activate Twitter Feeds

Cancer therapy: An interaction map of genes shows the best targets

No. 25c2 | 18/04/2018 | by Eck

Most genes are team players. Only when interacting with other genes can they perform properly. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now found a possibility to exploit this for the development of new cancer therapies. They generate maps of genetic interactions in cancer cells. These maps can then be used to determine the sites where it would be most effective to interfere with the interplay of cancer genes.

© Benedikt Rauscher/DKFZ

The DNA of cancer cells harbors numerous mutations that cannot be found in healthy body cells. The altered genes enable the cancer to grow and spread. Since the disease is reliant on these alterations, the affected genes or the proteins transcribed from them are interesting targets for new therapies. And since cancer cells respond to these attacks much more sensitively than healthy cells, therapies of this kind might selectively kill only the mutated cells while causing little or no harm to healthy cells.

However, past experience shows: "Cancer cells often develop resistance against therapies that target only a single gene – or a single gene product," reports Michael Boutros from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. "They often manage to evade the effects of therapy and find other ways." His colleague, Benedikt Rauscher, adds: "In addition, sometimes a cancer gene that would be interesting for therapy is particularly difficult or impossible to attack." The solution to these problems lies in the interplay of genes: "Most genes do not act in isolation but rather in networks with many other genes. They enhance, attenuate or completely neutralize each other's actions," says Boutros. A therapy that targets not just one specific cancer gene but rather interferes with whole networks would be less easy for cancer cells to evade.

In order to unravel the networks of genes and to show which genes are connected with each other, the team led by Boutros has developed a new computer algorithm. It enables researchers to generate exact maps of genetic interactions in human cancer cells – and, thus, to identify possible therapeutic targets. A special advantage of this approach: "Using our algorithm, we can integrate data originating from many different places all over the world," Rauscher said. "The more data we integrate, the more exact our genetic interaction maps get." The first map generated by the Heidelberg researchers is based on 85 high-throughput screens conducted by laboratories all around the world in many different cancer cell lines. The scientists used the CRISPR/Cas9 molecular scissors which can cut and change DNA at an exact site. Using this genome editing method, the scientists knocked out, one by one, each gene in the cancer cells and then observed how the other genes reacted.

In this large dataset, Boutros and his colleagues found known connections as well as new dependencies among genes that are relevant in the development of cancer. "Additionally, we found that our interaction maps also enable us to identify molecules that play an important role in certain types of cancer," Boutros reports. In their current study, the scientists have discovered that two genes called GANAB and PRKCSH control the release of so-called Wnt signals. These signals can stimulate neighboring cancer cells to grow – a process that plays an important role particularly in pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

Benedikt Rauscher, Florian Heigwer, Luisa Henkel, Thomas Hielscher, Oksana Voloshanenko and Michael Boutros. Toward an integrated map of genetic interactions in cancer cells. Mol Syst Biol 2018; DOI: 10.15252/msb.20177656

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 8 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


Subscribe to our RSS-Feed.

to top
powered by webEdition CMS