Cancer Autophagy Group (Tschan Novak)

Our independent research groups are interested in the pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemias and malignant lymphomas. We share the interest on the possible role of autophagy in the pathology of these diseases. The discovery of possibly new therapeutic targets, particulary in a highly complex process such as autophagy, fully depends on the knowledge of any process in normal counterpart cells. Whether the autophagy recycling pathway is involved in the resistance of hematological and solid cancers against chemotherapeutic agents and targeted therapies is being analyzed in close collaboration with clinical pathologists.

Current research projects Tschan

Molecular analysis of the autophagy pathway during myeloid differentiation of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells.

Autophagy is a lysosomal recycling process that supports cellular homeostasis. In contrast to proteasomal degradation, autophagy rather targest long-lived proteins and cell organelles. Currently, we investigate the function of autophagy during retinoic acid induced AML differentiation.

Novel function of the hematopoietic transcription factor PU.1 in apoptosis and autophagy of AML cells.

PU.1 is orchestrates normal myelopoiesis and its expression is downregulated in AML patients. Our recent data suggest that PU.1 directly activates transcription of autophagy-related (ATG) genes. Furthermore, we discovered that several anti-apoptotic genes are directly or indirectly controlled by PU.1.

Oncogenic function of autophagy in responses to cancer therapies.

Autophagy can protect cells from stress including stress caused by most antineoplastic therapies. Cancer cells may benefit from autophagy activation upon therapy and blocking autophagy may support the initial treatment. We are investigating if blocking autophagy supports chemotherapy or targeted therapies in breast and lung cancer cells.  

Current research projects Novak

Is autophagy a rational target in malignant lymphomas?

Malignant lymphomas comprise a variety of diseases. Multiple relapses with the need for new therapeutic targets are needed. We therefore analyse the role of autophagy in lymphomas their normal counterpart cells.

Molecular characterization of mediastinal lymphomas in siblings

Although rare, familial clustering of malignant lymphoma is a unique opportunity to unravel the pathogenesis of diseases. We have analyzed a family with two siblings affected with aggressive, mediastinal lymphomas with massively parallel whole-exome sequencing and array CGH.