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Notch Signaling Pathway in Pancreatobiliary Tumors
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The Notch signaling pathway plays an important role both in the development of the ductal systems of the pancreas and the bile ducts as well as in cancer development and progression. The aim of this study was to examine the expression of central proteins of the Notch signaling pathway in pancreatobiliary tumors and its influence on patient survival.

Materials and Methods: We compared the receptors (Notch1, Notch4), activating splicing factors (ADAM17), and target genes (HES1) of the Notch pathway and progenitor cell markers with relevance for the Notch signaling pathway (CD44, MSI1) between pancreatic adenocarcinomas (PDAC, n = 14), intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCC, n = 24), and extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (eCC, n = 22) cholangiocarcinomas.

A significant overexpression of almost all studied components of the Notch signaling pathway can be found in the tumor tissue, however, without a significant influence on patient survival. Therefore, further studies are warranted to draw conclusions on Notch pathway's relevance for patient survival.

The paper "Notch Signaling Pathway in Pancreatobiliary Tumors" is available via Medicina, 2021;57(2):105. Authors are Francesca Borlak, Anja Reutzel-Selke, Anja Schirmeier, Julia Gogolok, Ellen von Hoerschelmann, Igor M Sauer, Johann Pratschke, Marcus Bahra, and Rosa B Schmuck.
Karl Hillebrandt | Charité 3R Tandem project for early career researchers
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Together with Dr. Björn Papke (Molecular tumour pathology), Dr. Karl Hillebrandt was able to acquire funding for a "Tandem project for early career researchers" from the Charité 3R. The project is entitled "A personalised therapy approach implementing individually matched matrix-based in vitro colorectal liver metastases to reduce metastatic mouse models".
Although modern multimodal therapy strategies have improved the clinical outcome of patients with colorectal liver metastases (CRLM), the overall prognosis is still poor. To further improve treatment options for patients, it is necessary to develop and test new targeted therapeutic approaches. To date, mouse models have often been used to study metastatic colorectal cancer. However, the rate of successful translation of animal models into clinical trials is less than 8%, highlighting the urgent need for alternative models to study the biology of metastatic cancer. This project aims to develop a novel personalised extracellular matrix-based in vitro model of human CRLM. This model will be validated against existing data from patient-derived organoids and xenografts (histology, single cell RNA sequencing and targeted gene sequencing). After internal comparison of our in vitro CRLM with the original CRLM, we will translate it into a personalised drug screening platform to test drug response from standard therapy to novel inhibitor combinations.
Characterization of pancreatic and biliary cancer stem cells in patient-derived tissue
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Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and extrahepatic cholangio-carcinoma (eCC) represent two cancer entities with devastating prognoses. Despite recent progress in research and treatment, therapy remains challenging. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been shown to play an important role in metastasis and chemoresistance. Therefore, CSCs may play a promising role as a potential therapeutic target.
A total of 31 patients (23 PDAC, 8 eCC) were included in the study. CSCs were analyzed in a single-cell suspension of tumor samples via fluorescence-activated cell scanning (FACS) with a functional Hoechst 33342 staining as well as a cell surface marker staining of the CSC-panel (CD24, CD44 and EpCAM) and markers to identify fibroblasts, leukocytes and components of the notch signaling pathway. Furthermore, the potential presence of CSCs among primary cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) was assessed using the same FACS-panel.
We showed that CSCs are present in patient-derived dissociated tumor tissue. The functional and surface marker profile of CSC-detection did in fact correlate. The amount of CSCs was significantly correlated with tumor characteristics such as a higher UICC stadium and nodal invasion. CSCs were not restricted to the epithelial cell fraction in tumor tissues, which has been verified in independent analysis of primary cell cultures of CAFs.
Our study confirms the in vivo presence of CSCs in PDAC and eCC, stating a clinical significance thereof and thus their plausibility as therapeutic targets. In addition, stem-like cells also seem to constitute a part of the CAFs.

"Characterization of Pancreatic and Biliary Cancer Stem Cells in Patient-derived Tissue" was published in Anticancer Research. Authors are J. Gogolok, E. Seidel, A. Strönisch, A. Reutzel-Selke, I.M. Sauer, J. Pratschke, M. Bahra, and R.B. Schmuck.
Two new BIH Charité Junior Clinician Scientists
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Dr. Karl Hillebrandt and Dr. Matthäus Felsenstein successfully applied for the BIH Charité Junior Clinician Scientist Program. Karl Hillebrandt will continue his work on human decellularized liver slices as 3D platform for in vitro models of cholangiocellular carcinoma. Matthäus Felsenstein focusses on derivation of normal pancreatic duct cells from human primary tissue and their stepwise genetic modification in vitro using CRISPR/Cas9 .

Congratulations!
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