© ITZ Freiburg

The DKTK partner site Freiburg as a research platform within the Comprehensive Cancer Center Freiburg (CCCF) established a successful structure for effective translational research. Multiple research areas and interdisciplinary collaborations have been established. Results of preclinical cancer research are followed up by clinical trials and finally brought into clinical application. Early clinical studies are performed within the framework of DKTK joint funding pool.

The partner site Freiburg has a strong competence in oncogenic signaling, epigenetics, oncological imaging and systems medicine as well as profound expertise in RNA-protein complex research. Freiburg coordinates collaborative research programs such as CRC 850 ‘Control of Cell Motility in Morphogenesis, Cancer Invasion and Metastasis’, CRC 992 ‘MEDEP – Medical Epigenetics’ and the Priority Program 2177 ‘Radiomics: Next Generation of Biomedical Imaging’.

Oncogenic signaling is a long-standing landmark of the research at the DKTK partner site Freiburg. Our focus is the investigation of kinase-, phosphatase-, and protease-driven signaling networks as well as RAS signaling with the aim of identifying rational targeted therapy combinations. Research on the interaction between RAS gain-of-function mutations and kinase-dead BRAF mutations provides the basis for the SoraTram early clinical trial. SoraTram is a cross-institutional, prospective clinical study of combined CRAF and MEK inhibition in advanced-stage malignancies harboring BRAF mutations with impaired kinase activity. The study is performed in close collaboration between researchers and the Molecular Tumor Board (MTB) of the CCCF involving all eight DKTK partner sites.

In 2019, the Institute of Medical Bioinformatics and Systems Medicine was founded at the Medical Faculty, University Freiburg. Main focus of the institute is the analysis, integration and interpretation of high-throughput data in a clinical context up to the Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS). The institute supports the DKTK partners in Freiburg with its expertise in bioinformatics and has also established numerous cooperation between the different DKTK partner sites. They support innovative molecular diagnostics by developing and providing analysis pipelines for next generation sequencing data (NGS) and work closely with partners of the Medical Informatics Initiative consortium MIRACUM and the Center of Personalized Medicine (ZPM). Based on the work of the MTB, several early clinical studies have been designed and successfully implemented. The Freiburg MTB collaborates intensively with respective boards of other DKTK locations and beyond. Researchers at DKTK Freiburg also investigate novel, non-canonical classes of mutations in cancer - from basic research on their function to their relevance in clinical decisions. 

Epigenetic cancer research in Freiburg spans basic research to elucidate the functions of epigenetic regulators at all levels (molecular, cellular and organismal), to chart disturbed epigenetic pathways in cancer cells revealing their Achilles' heel. Epigenetic drug targets are identified, novel epigenetic compounds are generated and clinical trials are initiated. The key cancer types for epigenetic studies in Freiburg are: myeloid dysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemias, juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, myeloproliferative neoplasms, prostate and colorectal cancer, renal cancers, urothelial carcinomas and lung adenocarcinoma. For multiple of these cancer types, multicenter prospective clinical trials (phase I/II) have been initiated. Complementary to the epigenetic research, RNA-protein complexes are a central research topic at the DKTK partner site Freiburg.

The DKTK partner site Freiburg is one of the world leaders in the field of Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Oncology with special emphasis on the development and evaluation of novel oncological imaging techniques, i.e. MRI and PET/CT development as well as the development and application of innovative theranostic radiopharmaceuticals. Radiologists and Nuclear Medicine experts in Freiburg operate state-of-the-art imaging facilities with early translation of techniques into clinical routine (i.e. DWI- or CT-based perfusion imaging) and are clinically implementing novel IT-based post-processing techniques, i.e. artificial intelligence and deep-learning algorithms. Another important focus in Freiburg is biological imaging guided high precision radiation therapy and modulation of radiation sensitivity/resistance in combination with immunotherapy. Radiation oncology as a central department in DKTK and CCCF is leading several national and international trials.

Further information on the DKTK partner site Freiburg can be found here.