Cancer is a complex, multifaceted disease and the underlying biology, clinical progression and therapy options differ significantly depending on the type of cancer. This means that to fight cancer we need complex, multifaceted research concepts. The DKTK partner site Munich is pursuing a number of different approaches, ranging from mechanistic modelling to immuno-oncology and personalized molecular oncology.
Before we can develop new treatments, we need a better understanding of the basis of the different types of cancer. The Munich site is conducting the basic research needed to generate this knowledge in a number of Collaborative Research Centers, including CRC/TRR 833, CRC 1371, CRC 1335, CRC 1321, CRC 1243, CRC 1054, CRC 824 and research unit FOR 2033. The research is supported by the German Research Foundation DFG, the European Union EU and numerous other funding bodies.
Knowledge on its own is of little benefit for medical treatment, however. To make a difference to patients, the new insights must be translated into a clinical treatment strategy. Early translation connects basic research with clinical practice and is at the heart of the activities at the partner site Munich of the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK).
This is why the Munich site focuses primarily on mechanistic modelling of cancer. The models developed here help to identify new cancer vulnerabilities that could potentially form therapeutic targets. Models can be used to test treatment strategies without putting a strain on patients. They include organoid models, which replicate the tumor in microscopic copies in a test tube. Genomic and proteomic analyses are also used to examine patient samples at the DNA and protein level.
The research into mechanisms forms the ideal basis for the other two translational focus areas in Munich: immuno-oncology and personalized molecular oncology. The aim of immuno-oncology is to train the patient’s own immune system to fight off cancer. Personalized molecular oncology is an alternative approach that aims to find the right drug to treat each patient through high-precision molecular profiling of tumors: the tumor’s molecular driving force is targeted and switched off. This translational research strategy follows the dual concept of forward translation (from laboratory to patient treatment) and reverse translation (from clinical observations of individual patients back to the lab).
Besides conducting research, the DKTK partner site Munich also supports essential oncology infrastructure. This includes the structured, ethical collection of biomaterials for future research projects, in full compliance with data protection laws. The Molecular Tumor Board (MTB) of the Comprehensive Cancer Center München (CCCM) takes place weekly in collaboration with specialists in various fields working at the hospital LMU Klinikum and the hospital Klinikum Rechts der Isar. A broad molecular pathological diagnosis is carried out and personalized treatment is tailored to the individual patient – based on the pillars of immuno-oncology and molecular oncology. The aim is to give patients for whom no standard treatment is available and patients with rare types of cancer access to targeted therapy through clinical trials or compassionate-use programs. Numerous DKTK research programs are used in conjunction with the Molecular Tumor Board to further refine patient selection for treatment strategies.
The DKTK is also involved in training future oncological specialists at the interface between research and patient treatment. Therefore, the DKTK School of Oncology trains medical scientists and clinician scientists. In conjunction with the CCCM, the School of Oncology offers them a rotational program - the Munich OncoTrack - which takes in the various specialist fields of the two university hospitals in Munich.
The DKTK partner site Munich specializes in gastrointestinal cancer, pancreatic cancer, leukemia and lymphatic cancer, but is also involved in many other tumor diseases. Through these activities, the scientists and physicians at the DKTK site in Munich attempt to bring about lasting improvements in oncology, in terms of better understanding, diagnosis and treatability, in order to help care for cancer patients throughout the DKTK as well as internationally.
- Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
- LMU University Hospital Munich (LMU Klinikum)
- Technical University Munich (TUM)
- University Hospital rechts der Isar (MRI)