Group Marinoni, Perren, Sadowski

The research focus of our group is the study of endocrine tumors; notably sporadic and familial pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PanNETs). PanNETs are highly heterogeneous and the mechanisms leading to tumor development are still elusive.
We focus on the understanding of the molecular events leading to PanNET formation and progression as well as on the investigation of the mechanisms mediating therapy resistance and tumor aggressiveness. We integrate molecular biological (in vitro and in vivo) and clinical (human tissue based ex vivo) research approaches.

Current research projects

Epigenetic changes in PanNETs

Group Perren Almost, half of Pancreatic Neuro-endocrine Tumors (PanNETs) shows mutation in MEN1, DAXX or ATRX. All the three genes encode for proteins which are involved in epigenetic regulation. Based on DNA methylation we identified subgroups of PanNETs with: specific cell of origin, genetic background and clinical outcome. Notably, we demonstrated that MEN1/DAXX/ATRX mutated tumors originated from alpha pancreatic cells and that they have an increased risk of relapse.
We focus on understanding the epigenetic changes along PanNET progression and their impact of pathways activation.


Top: Phyloepigenetic analysis of PanNET human samples and normal alpha and beta-cell samples.  Bottom: Progression model hypothesis based on epigenetic and genetic evolution

Precision medicine approach for PanNET treatment

Group Perren Up to date, no therapy prediction based on specific molecular profile is possible for PanNET patients. We recently established patient-derived tumoroid cultures from PanNET patients which resemble features of original tumor tissue and which can be used for in vitro drug screenings. We are currently assessing the utility of PanNET tumoroids to predict patient therapy response and to identify novel epigenetic treatment options. Also, we aim at identifying specific molecular profiles through DNA sequencing, methylation- and gene expression analysis to predict therapy response in vitro and on the patients.


Patient-derived Tumoroids from PanNET patients are utilized for in vitro pharmacotyping and molecular profiling

Metabolic changes in PanNET

Group Perren Critical metabolic changes are early hallmarks of cancer cells. Emerging epigenetic, transcriptional and translational data suggest that PanNET cells undergo substantial metabolic reprogramming. However, the identity, functional consequences and therapeutic potential of metabolic changes in PanNET remain up until now largely unknown and untested. Our multimodal, integrated analysis of PanNET cell culture and tissue samples of various stages of tumor development by modern mass spectrometry, fluorescence microscopy and RNAseq data will delineate these metabolic and test novel therapeutic strategies.      


Tissue mass spectrometry (top) identified five metabolic PanNET. Fluorescence microscopy measured mitochondrial activity (middle) and lipid storage (bottom) in PanNET cells


Award for best research project & presentation at 15th Annual Meeting Swiss Stem Cell Network 2020

Featuring this year’s theme of “Organoid & other specialized cell cultures for clinical applications” Simon April-Monn (PhD Candidate, Gruppe Perren/Marinoni) was honored for his project on Patient-derived Islet-like Tumoroids and personalized medicine in PanNETs. The award was generously conferred by the co-hosts Bern Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine (SCRM) & Bern Center for Precision Medicine (BCPM). 11.Dec.2020, Bern.