The primary objective of our research group at RWTH Aachen University is the characterization of new class II tumor suppressor genes (C2TSGs) that are often epigenetically down regulated (silenced) in cancer. We work on C2TSGs in three cancer entities, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and more recently in cholangiocarcinoma (CCA). It is our aim to decode the molecular signaling pathways in which these novel putative tumor suppressor are involved in.
A novel tumor suppressor molecule of the ECM that we were the first group to clone and describe in 2004 is the inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor H5 (short name: ITIH5). ITIH5 may belong to a special class of tumor suppressor genes because it seems to specifically inhibit tumor progression and metastasis. Such genes are called metastasis suppressor genes.
The WNT pathway seems to be of great importance with regard to development and progression of several tumor entities as well, including breast and pancreatic cancer. In recent years, we have been working mainly on the tumor suppressor genes SFRP1 and DKK3, which encode secreted inhibitors of the WNT pathway. As components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) they act on neighboring cells.
We hope that findings from our tumor suppressor gene research may contribute in the long term to improvements in cancer treatment as novel therapeutic approaches may be addressed using these candidate genes (C2TSG-based targeted therapies). In addition, epigenetic biomarkers may be especially suitable for early cancer detection from body fluids like blood or urine. This is the reason we are also developing our C2TSGs as biomarkers for liquid biopsy based early detection of cancer.