Five European laboratories forms a concerted effort to understand tumor-host interactions

January 26, 2006

An EU funded Specific Targeted Research Project (STREP) entitled "Tumor-Host Genomics" has been launched at the University of Helsinki, Finland. The Tumor-Host Genomics project links together the resources of five European leading-edge laboratories studying major signaling pathways in mesenchymal and hematopoietic cells, forming a concerted effort to understand tumor-host interactions, and to identify novel therapeutic targets.

The European Union will fund the project with a total of 2.7 million € during the next three years. The project is coordinated by Dr. Petri Salven from the University of Helsinki. The other participating principal investigators are Dr. Kari Alitalo and Dr. Jussi Taipale, also form the University of Helsinki, Dr. Peter ten Dijke from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and Dr. Luigi Naldini from the San Raffaele Telethon Insitute for Gene Therapy in Italy.

In addition to oncogenic mutations that act cell-autonomously, tumor cell growth depends on interactions with its microenvironment. Tumor microenvironment consists of cells of hematopoietic and mesenchymal origin, including inflammatory cells, stem and progenitor cells, fibroblasts, endothelial cells and vascular mural cells. Tumor cell growth is known to depend on the interaction of tumor cells with such stromal cells. For example, growing tumor needs to recruit normal endothelial and vascular mural cells to form its blood vessels.

The Tumor-Host Genomics project will develop novel advanced functional genomics instruments, technologies and methods to study tumor-host interactions in cancer, and apply these techniques to the identification of molecules and processes in normal cells which could be targeted by novel anti-cancer therapeutic agents. The ultimate goal of the project is to unravel and validate new targets for anticancer therapy, and new strategies for delivering therapy to tumors.

"We are studying the molecular and cellular interactions between the normal, benign cells of the tumor microenvironment, and the cancer cells. These interactions represent an attractive target for cancer therapy, because normal cells are genetically stable, and would not be expected to develop resistance to therapeutic agents," says Dr. Salven, the coordinator for the project.
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The principal investigators participating the Tumor-Host Genomics project:

Adjunct Professor, Academy Researcher Petri Salven, University of Helsinki, Biomedicum Helsinki, Finland
Expertise: stem cells and tumor angiogenesis, RNAi, imaging

Academy Professor Kari Alitalo, University of Helsinki, Biomedicum Helsinki, Finland Expertise: reseptor tyrosine kinases, vascular signal transduction

Professor Jussi Taipale, University of Helsinki, Biomedicum Helsinki, Finland
Expertise: regulatory element prediction, high throughput analyses,

Professor Peter ten Dijke, Leiden University Medical Center, the Netherlands
Expertise: RNAi libraries, TGF-b superfamily signaling

Professor Luigi Naldini, San Raffaele Telethon Insitute for Gene Therapy, Italy
Expertise: lentiviral systems, in vivo tumor targeting

University of Helsinki

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