Research Program "Molecular Diagnostics, Early Detection, and Biomarker Development (MDEB)"

The DKTK Program Molecular Diagnostics, Early Detection, and Biomarker Development is dedicated to the discovery of novel diagnostic, prognostic and predictive molecular markers, the development of approaches for cancer prevention, and the translation of these findings into robust biomarkers to improve the clinical management of cancer patients.


A wealth of molecular data has been generated within DKTK for selected tumor entities. These will be the basis for the development of robust biomarkers for urgent clinical challenges, including novel stratification schemes for pediatric and adult patients with brain tumors and for patients with metastasis in gastrointestinal cancer, the prediction of adjuvant treatment response in breast and ovarian cancer, and biomarkers of relapse and resistance in the management of acute leukemia patients. Several efforts in biomarker development will be in close interactions with the other DKTK Programs. The further expansion the established molecular tumor boards will be imperative for a successful translation of this work.

This Program will develop and validate new techniques for molecular diagnostics by focusing on the analyses of i) liquid biopsies, especially circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in body fluids, ii) the non-protein coding information of tumor cell genomes and iii) the proteome of tumor cells.

In cancer prevention, the focus will be on further progress in screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) and its implementation to reduce the burden of this common disease.

Highlight Achievements

  • Molecular stratification of diffuse and anaplastic cerebral gliomas into prognostically
    distinct subgroups based on genomic and transcriptomic profiling (Weller et al., Acta Neuropathol 2015).
  • Investigation of the immunogenicity of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive and triple-negative breast cancers (BCs) (Denkert et al., J Clin Oncol 2015).
  • Isolated trisomy 13 defines a homogeneous AML subgroup with a high frequency of mutations in spliceosome genes and poor prognosis (Herold et al., Blood 2014).
  • The finding that risk of colorectal cancer could be reduced with screening,
    surveillance, or diagnostic colonoscopy (Brenner et al., Gastroenterology 2014).
  • Development of a model to determine colorectal cancer risk using common genetic susceptibility loci (Hsu et al., Gastroenterology 2015).
  • Discovery of novel patterns of cancer methylomes, including tumor specific regulatory sequences (Hovestadt et al., Nature 2014).


Prof. Dr. Hermann Brenner

Prof. Dr. Peter Lichter

Prof. Dr. Gudio Reifenberger