German Cancer Research Center, Germany
Prof. Mathias Heikenwaelder is a trained molecular biologist and microbiologist, with expertise in immunology, pathology and a strong link to translational research evoked by 10 years of work and expertise in a Pathology Institution (Clinical Pathology, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland). Since October 2015 he is Department Head at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg focusing on the link between chronic inflammation and cancer, with the main focus on liver cancer. Prof. Heikenwaelder’s laboratory aims at understanding the different immune signatures of chronic inflammatory human diseases driving tissue damage and cancer using patient material and relevant preclinical mouse models. This is done with the final aim to generate valid pre-clinical models of chronic inflammation induced tissue damage and cancer, used for pre-clinical research. Thus, his laboratory focuses on comparative studies of tissue specimen of human patients and animal models, recapitulating human disease on a histo-pathological and pathophysiological level. Their main focus is the understanding of the pathophysiology of primary and metastatic liver cancer and possible treatment thereof.
Prof. Heikenwaelder’s lab engages in classical molecular biology techniques complemented with sophisticated ways to receive as much information from tissue samples through histology (e.g. light microscopy/ immune fluorescence/ FISH/ in situ hybridization), histo-cytometry (a combination of Flow cytometry and histology), single cell analysis and other in vivo imaging techniques (e.g. MRI, IVIS, ultrasound) as well as through FACS analyses of tissue homogenates. At the same time, they are also interested in investigating cells in situ to analyze their metabolome or transcriptome on a single cell level in situ.
Moreover, Prof. Heikenwaelder’s team tries to understand the systemic functional effects of pathologies and the interplay between several affected non-lymphoid tissues and the immune system (e.g. liver-gut; muscle-liver). Finally, testing several therapeutic compounds in a single but also combinatorial fashion is one of their goals employing established and stratified pre-clinical mouse models. Prof. Heikenwalder has received several prizes and grants including an ERC Starting, an ERC consolidator grant.