Translational Immunotherapy

Division of Translational Immunotherapy

PD Dr. Niels Halama

Colorectal cancer liver metastasis with strong T cell infiltration (cells stained in brown).

Cancer immunology has moved from scientific insight into practice changing standards in oncology. Robust scientific evidence has provided the entry to successful clinical translation. The department of translational immunotherapy is integrating broad aspects of immunological parameters (i.e. tissue-specific regulation, microbiome, metabolic regulation, genomic factors etc.) for the successful development and optimization of therapeutic approaches in clinical translation. An important part is to better understand the regulation of immune responses within tissues of solid tumors. Dedicated biomarker research for the identification of relevant immune cell phenotypes is also a decisive factor like understanding the cytokine regulatory network in specific disease situations. Deeper insights into the situation in human patients are provided by our fully-human preclinical Explant Model System, which is able to recapitulate the microenvironment of individual patients. In addition, new computational model systems, databases and machine learning (“artificial intelligence”) allow to further elaborate our understanding of the regulation of immune responses. Especially our explant model systems open new possibilities in development of new therapies. Newly developed therapies have been successfully translated into the clinic and combinatorial immunomodulation based on adaptive clinical trial protocols with biomarker driven selection programs are now being implemented.

Cancer immunotherapy has revolutionized oncology. As a standard of care for some cancer entities, broad application in the treatment of patients with hematologic and solid tumors has become a reality. Identification of patients for a specific immunomodulatory approach, identification of successful combinatorial immunotherapy (or combination with chemotherapy, radiation or other intervention) are all important next steps to be developed also together in the Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HITRON). Utilizing new model systems and informative trial designs, the connection of basic research and translational efforts make this area highly diverse and challenging, but show the potential for a future of personalized therapy in oncology.


PD Dr. Niels Halama
Translational Immunotherapy (D240)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 242
69120 Heidelberg

Selected Publications

  • Kather JN, Krisam J, Charoentong P, Luedde T, Herpel E, Weis CA, Gaiser T, Marx A, Valous NA, Ferber D, Jansen L, Reyes-Aldasoro CC, Zörnig I, Jäger D, Brenner H, Chang-Claude J, Hoffmeister M, Halama N. Predicting survival from colorectal cancer histology slides using deep learning: A retrospective multicenter study. PLoS Med. 2019
  • Wells DK, Halama N et al. Key Parameters of Tumor Epitope Immunogenicity Revealed Through a Consortium Approach Improve Neoantigen Prediction. Cell. 2020 Oct 2:S0092-8674(20)31156-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.09.015. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33038342.
  • Halama N, Zoernig I, Berthel A, Kahlert C, Klupp F, Suarez-Carmona M, Suetterlin T, Brand K, Krauss J, Lasitschka F, Lerchl T, Luckner-Minden C, Ulrich A, Koch M, Weitz J, Schneider M, Buechler MW, Zitvogel L, Herrmann T, Benner A, Kunz C, Luecke S, Springfeld C, Grabe N, Falk CS, Jaeger D. Tumoral Immune Cell Exploitation in Colorectal Cancer Metastases Can Be Targeted Effectively by Anti-CCR5 Therapy in Cancer Patients. Cancer Cell. 2016
  • Halama N, Michel S, Kloor M, Zoernig I, Benner A, Spille A, Pommerencke T, von Knebel DM, Folprecht G, Luber B, Feyen N, Martens UM, Beckhove P, Gnjatic S, Schirmacher P, Herpel E, Weitz J, Grabe N, Jaeger D. Localization and density of immune cells in the invasive margin of human colorectal cancer liver metastases are prognostic for response to chemotherapy. Cancer Res. 2011
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