Molecular Cancer Biology
Oncogenic Signaling and the Tumor Immune-Environment
Despite considerable progress in the fight against cancer, malignant diseases are becoming a global pandemic. More than 14 million new cases were diagnosed in 2012 and about 8 million people died of cancer worldwide. The global cancer burden is projected to reach more than 21 million new cases and 13 million deaths per year by 2030. The socioeconomic toll of cancer is also alarming; premature death and disability account for yearly economic losses of about USD 1 trillion. The development of innovative and more efficient therapies is a major challenge for biomedical research of the 21st century. Understanding the intricate molecular and genetic networks regulating cancer growth, metastasis and drug resistance is key to the development of better therapies. The main focus of the lab is on oncogenic pathways such as Hedgehog/GLI signaling, their cooperation in tumor-initiating metastatic cancer stem cells (CSC) and their role in suppressing the anti-tumoral response of the immune system (see Figure 1). Eradicating cancer by targeted and rational combination treatments including immunotherapy approaches is a prime focus of the lab.
Figure 1: Cancer (stem) cells, Hedgehog/GLI signaling and the tumor microenvironment. Vivid signal cross-talk between cancer cells, rare tumor initiating cancer stem cells (CSC) and the microenvironment drives cancer growth and metastasis. Understanding the molecular basis of these molecular communication processes will open up new opportunities for innovative therapies based on rational multimodal combination treatments. References: 1) Grund-Groeschke et al., Mol. Oncol, 2020.2) Elmer et al., bioRxiv, 2022.3) Gruber et al., Int. J. Cancer , 2018.4) Peer et al., Cancers, 2021.5) Eberl et al., EMBO Mol. Med., 2012.6) Sternberg et al., Int. J. Cancer, 2018. (created with Biorender.com).
Research network activities:
The Aberger group together with the Salzburg Cancer Research Institute at the University Clinics Salzburg (SALK/PMU) founded the “ Cancer Cluster Salzburg“ (CCS). a research network of 20 expert groups in basic, translational and clinical cancer research to explore new cancer-driving mechanisms and develop innovative treatments with improved therapeutic efficacy (for details see: www.cancercluster-salzburg.at).The Aberger group is a member of the FWF-funded international PhD Program “Immunity in Cancer and Allergy“, member of the doctoral school PLUS “Biomolecules in Health and Disease” and a member of the “Allergy-Cancer-BioNano Research Centre” from the University of Salzburg.