We are happy to announce that in October 2018, the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) awarded two projects to our scientific experts Dr. Sabine Taschner-Mandl and Dr. Eleni Tomazou, together with their teams from the research units Tumour Biology and Epigenome-based Precision Medicine.
The WWTF Life Sciences Call 2018 with the topic "Linking Research and Patients´ Needs" supports innovative interdisciplinary research projects at the interface between basic and clinical research. Of 114 short proposals submitted, 25 were invited for full proposals, of which nine were finally funded. The total funding volume of the call is more than six million Euros.
Dr. Sabine Taschner-Mandl is a young principal investigator and recently assumed the scientific leadership of the Tumour Biology Group. Together with her collaboration partners at St. Anna Children’s hospital and the Centre for Molecular Medicine (CeMM), her team will focus on neuroblastoma patients with an ultra-high risk (UHR) of disease relapse and death. These children frequently fail to respond to existing intensive multi-modal treatment protocols including high-dose combination chemotherapy. Effective therapies are currently not available, because the interplay of (epi-)genetic drivers of UHR neuroblastoma is largely unknown.
This project aims to precisely target UHR neuroblastoma by the identification of combinatorial tumour drivers, the investigation of genetic vulnerabilities to test potentially synthetic lethal compounds, and the establishment of the first personalized, real-time xenograft zebrafish model for drug testing. This strategy will provide clinical decision makers with a solid rationale to integrate the identified drugs in the clinic.
Dr. Eleni Tomazou, head of the Epigenome-based Precision Medicine group, and her team are pursuing molecular investigation and new approaches for targeted therapy of Ewing sarcoma. Ewing sarcoma is a bone and soft tissue cancer of children and young adults. Survival rates for this malignant disease have stagnated for many years, in part because low mutation rates limit the number of suitable drug targets and the impact of immunotherapies.
This project is based on the concept that targeted reprogramming of the tumour microenvironment in Ewing sarcoma may help break chemotherapy resistance and thereby improve treatment response and survival. First, a comprehensive map of the Ewing sarcoma microenvironment will be established. Second, a co-culture assay will be developed for the functional evaluation whether epigenome reprogramming of non-tumour cells can provide a viable strategy for therapeutically targeting the Ewing sarcoma microenvironment.