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Uveal melanoma derives from melanocytes in the eye, and is the most common eye cancer in adults. Despite decades of research, uveal melanoma remains very hard to treat and is almost uniformly lethal once metastasis emerge, due to the lack of good therapeutic options. Retinoblastoma is cancer found mainly in infants and young children, which can metastasize to the brain if left untreated. Current treatment approaches are unspecific, and eye removal is still necessary in some cases. Novel treatment approaches for uveal melanoma and retinoblastoma are needed. The Kurtenbach lab investigates how mutations found in these cancers lead to epigenomic changes driving tumor evolution and aggressiveness. A mix of wetlab and bioinformatic techniques are being used. Results from these studies are used to design new treatment angles. To model metastasis, organoids are being used, which are differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and offer an exciting new way of investigating tumor development in a heterogeneous, multi-cellular environment.
Developing novel treatment strategies for uveal melanoma
Our mission is to tackle one of the deadliest cancers, uveal melanoma, by developing novel and effective treatment strategies. We employ cutting-edge epigenetic characterizations to identify pathways that drive the metastatic spread of this cancer. Our team is also conducting extensive drug screens with large compound libraries, utilizing both cell-based and animal models to identify promising candidates for clinical trials.
Characterization of retinoblastoma invasion and metastatic spread
Retinoblastoma, the most common childhood cancer, poses a significant challenge in understanding how it spreads to the brain via the optic nerve. Our team is dedicated to uncovering the mechanisms behind its invasive nature by utilizing iPSC-derived brain organoid models. Our research aims to identify new treatment angles and strategies that are more specific than the current approaches.
As part of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI), we are developing cutting-edge organoids in a multi-disciplinary approach. As part of the ISCI iPSC Incubator, a multi-disciplinary and collaborative think tank dedicated to advancing stem cell research and technology, our current focus lies on developing brain and heart organoids, which offer exciting opportunities for genetic manipulations and screens in human cells.