In Germany, 450,000 people suffer and 216,000 people die from cancer each year. After cardiovascular diseases, cancer is the second leading cause of death. Cancer cells grow uncontrollably and form their own nutrient-supplying blood vessels. Many tumor cells move through the blood or lymphatic system to distant organs and form metastases, which often lead to incurable cancer. An important goal of our work is to therefore discover the mechanisms of cancer growth, metastasis, and their distribution in the human body.
The scientific focus of our research is on the development of human 3D tissue equivalents on an acelluarized, vascularized intestinal matrix BioVaSc. By applying tissue engineering methods, we produce human 3D tumor tissue on the BioVaSc in combination with primary tumor cells and various tumor cell lines to get the mechanisms of novel therapy strategies in a complex human pathological environment examined.
The Translational center succeeded in establishing various tumor models in different complexities such as lung tumor models or models for colorectal carcinoma, for breast cancer, leukemia and for malign peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST). Beyond the standard divisional rate and apoptosis of tumor cells, various molecular activations and inhibitions of signal cascades can now be measured after a treatment with agents. Based on these data, “in silico”-models are created, refined, and validated in cooperation with the Department of Bioinformatics of the University Hospital Würzburg. The co-culture with cells from the tumor stroma additionally allows the examination of the reciprocity of agents, among them biologicals such as anti-bodies, with stromal and with tumor cells of their surroundings and to further examine the formation of resistance or metastases. In the future, we want to refine characteristics of metastasizing tumor stem cells.
The application of 2D monolayer cultures and cell lines is limited when clarifying certain regenerative mechanisms, the examination of physiological barrier functions, and the resorption processes in humans. Based on the BioVaSc, we developed complex tissue models of the human barriers skin, cornea, bowel, trachea, lung, and the blood-brain-barrier. We adapt these tissues to diseases (disease-models) or we simulate infections of germs and, accordingly, we establish long-time cultures. Equally, we simulate reciprocal effects of medical products such as stents to optimize the surface of the implants. In the EU project IDEA, we use vascularized tissue models to develop diagnostics (nanoparticles) and to test their safety. In the EU projects Bio-Inspire and VascuBone, we are developing stem cell-based musculoskeletal therapies; the necessary preclinical studies are in progress with international partners from Norway, Austria, and Australia. Clinical studies of these novel innovative ATMPs (Advanced Therapies Medicinal Products) are prepared in Germany, Austria, and Norway. The culture of our vascularized matrix (BioVaSc) in specific bioreactors where we can also generate complex vascularized implants has now also been established under GMP conditions in cooperation with the University Hospital Würzburg. In the framework of a BMBF-funded project, we are preparing first clinical studies for a trachea transplant based on the BioVaSc.
Our research services can be used for the entire value-added chain in the development of cancer therapies.