Infection Oncology


Group Leader

Facts & Details: 

The Role of Bacterial Infections in Human Carcinogenesis

The human mucosa is the major crossing point for molecular interaction between our body and the environment. This is where most pathogens initiate their infections and where our defense system is challenged to rapidly counteract any approaching assaults. Repeated or persistent onslaughts of this kind, however, tend to cause permanent damage to our epithelium and, not surprisingly, the mucosal epithelium is the site most prone to carcinogenesis, a consequence of enhanced mutagenesis, inflammation and cell proliferation. Several clear links have been noted between chronic bacterial infections and carcinogenesis; however, the underlying mechanisms of this relationship are still sparsely understood. Exploring these mechanisms promises to pave the way towards better prevention and treatment of the disease.

Our research applies sophisticated approaches to illuminate the relationship between infection and cancer:

Carcinogenic microbes __Helicobacter pylori (2)


Carcinogenic microbes

The gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori is the paradigm of a cancer-inducing bacterium. Understanding the mechanisms behind this link will help to define the principles of an infection-cancer connection. We are also investigating the mechanisms behind the suggested carcinogenic effects of several other bacterial species, including Chlamydia trachomatis, Salmonella typhi and Escherichia coli.


Human organoids GAT18A-Wnt-Rspo_Ki67_2



        Human organoids and mucosoids

   The use of human primary cell culture models is crucial for authentic investigations of
   cancer emergence. We have pioneered the use of innovative organoid and mucosoid
   models, providing invaluable tools for modelling infection processes and their
   consequences in untransformed cells.





Functional genomics BSL3

Functional genomics of cancer initiation

Breakthrough technologies, such as RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas9, are extensively used in our work to decipher beneficial and potentially deleterious gene functions and genetic defects.



OVK23 from Thieck OTO14 MB201 confocal 07-05FTOVK73


        Origin of cancer initiating cells

   While our understanding of cancer evolution and progression has greatly improved in
   recent years, the initiation of carcinogenesis is a much more elusive phenomenon. We
   are developing sophisticated genetic lineage tracing tools to help illuminate the very
   earliest events in cancer initiation as a result of infection and the various stages
   of carcinogenesis.





Analysing cancer progression CA125 Vimentin and Cdh1 in shLIF from OT016 Raw data confocal 2017 03-17 027KHF


Analysing human cancer progression

In collaboration with clinical centres we analyse cancerous and precancerous human tissue samples to guide us in our understanding of the various stages of cancer initiation and progression as well as the role of infectious agents in these processes.



        Signatures of infectionSignatures of infection in the cancer genome

   Unlike oncogenic viruses, bacteria do not leave genetic material in the genome of host
   cells. It is therefore much more difficult to prove that some bacterial infections can
   promote the emergence of cancer – often many years later. Nonetheless,
   epidemiology suggests that these bacteria-cancer relationships exist. Identifying genetic
   signatures that bacterial pathogens might leave behind in human cells might therefore
   provide genuine proof the causality between infections and cancer emergence and
   facilitate our understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible.
                                                                    We are using the most advanced tools of molecular biology, genetics and genomics
                                                                    in order to identify such signatures.


Prof. Dr. Thomas F. Meyer, Director
Dr. Beate Lengl-Janßen, Lab Manager
Dr. Kfir Lapid, Scientific Coordinator
Dr. Hilmar Berger, Chief Bioinformatician
Dr. Saskia Erttmann, Senior Scientist

Meyer Laboratory
Meyer Lab Alumni

Main Publications

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