Kliniken & Institute … Kliniken Kopfklinik (Zentrum) … Hals-, Nasen- und… Forschung AG Experimentelle und…

Sektion Experimentelle und Translationale Kopf-Hals Onkologie

Malignant tumors of the head and neck region rank among the world's most common cancers. More than 90% of these tumors originate from epithelial tissues lining the mouth and throat. The most important risk factors are tobacco and alcohol consumption as well as infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). In particular, HPV infection in patients has been shown to be associated with oropharyngeal cancer.

Despite numerous advances in the diagnosis and therapy of head-neck cancer in recent decades (e.g. introduction of multimodal therapy concepts) the prognosis for patients with advanced cancer has improved only marginally. Importantly, local recurrences and metastases frequently lead to treatment failure. Therefore, we need to have a sound understanding of the basic mechanisms involved in the generation and spread of head-neck cancer in order to devise better strategies for diagnosis and effective treatment.

Our research program is based on experimental studies of patient tumor samples and pre-clinical model systems derived from these tumors as well as cancer cell lines. Within the framework of an interdisciplinary-cum-translational research involving scientists from diverse disciplines (biologists, biostatisticians, medical doctors and pathologists) we employ state-of-the-art technologies from various fields (e.g. functional genomics, proteomics, molecular biology) to investigate the molecular principles underlying the pathogenesis of head-neck tumors. In the long term, we aim to establish robust biomarkers for stratification of patients at high risk for treatment failure and innovative molecular targets for more effective and less toxic treatment options.

Group Members


  • Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Jochen Hess



  • Firas Almouhanna
  • Portrait von Sebastian Burkart
    Sebastian Burkart
  • Portrait von Luca Engelmann
    Luca Engelmann

    06221 56-6757

  • Bohai Feng
  • Gabriel Hillebrand
  • Karam Khorani
  • Qiaoli Li
  • Karl Metzger
  • Sonja Obradovic
  • Viny Shang
  • Christoph Weusthof
  • Fang Xiang

Research Technician


  • Annette Affolter
  • Verena Apholz
  • Pilar Bayo-Zaera
  • Bianca de Bem Prunes
  • Julian Doll
  • Portrait von Leoni Erdinger
    Leoni Erdinger

  • Leonie Faller
  • Babitha George
  • Christiane Gotzian
  • Portrait von Jennifer Grünow
    Jennifer Grünow
  • Steffen Homann
  • Dominik Horn
  • Adriana Jou
  • Natalia Koerich Laureano
  • Markus Kolb
  • Efterpi Kostareli
  • Nele Kreycy
  • Alexandra Leipold
  • Fasolt Meinert

  • Britta Molfenter
  • Marie-France Muller
  • Andrè Nollert
  • Tillmann Pompecki
  • Portrait von Chao Rong
    Chao Rong
  • Katrin Schmitt
  • Matthias Schrittenlocher
  • Julia Schwärzler
  • Sarika Sharma
  • Aleksandra Vehlewald
  • Sebastian Weißfuß
  • Christina Zühlke

Research Projects



Affolter, A., M. F. Muller, K. Sommer, A. Stenzinger, K. Zaoui, K. Lorenz, T. Wolf, S. Sharma, J. Wolf, S. Perner, K. J. Weber, K. Freier, P. K. Plinkert, J. Hess and W. Weichert (2016). Targeting irradiation-induced mitogen-activated protein kinase activation in vitro and in an ex vivo model for human head and neck cancer. Head Neck Suppl 1:E2049-61.

Dropmann, A., T. Dediulia, K. Breitkopf-Heinlein, H. Korhonen, M. Janicot, S. N. Weber, M. Thomas, A. Piiper, E. Bertran, I. Fabregat, K. Abshagen, J. Hess, P. Angel, C. Coulouarn, D. Steven and N. M. Meindl-Beinker (2016). TGF-beta1 and TGF-beta2 abundance in liver diseases of mice and men. Oncotarget 7(15):19499-518.

Kostareli, E., T. Hielscher, M. Zucknick, L. Baboci, G. Wichmann, D. Holzinger, O. Mucke, M. Pawlita, A. Del Mistro, P. Boscolo-Rizzo, M. C. Da Mosto, G. Tirelli, P. Plinkert, A. Dietz, C. Plass, D. Weichenhan and J. Hess (2016). Gene promoter methylation signature predicts survival of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients. Epigenetics 11(1): 61-73.

Tepper, S. R., Z. Zuo, A. Khattri, J. Hess and T. Y. Seiwert (2016). Growth factor expression mediates resistance to EGFR inhibitors in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Oral Oncol 56: 62-70.

Thierauf, J., J. A. Veit, J. Grunow, J. Doscher, S. Weissinger, T. Whiteside, D. Beutner, P. Plinkert, T. K. Hoffmann and J. Hess (2016). Expression of Submaxillary Gland Androgen-regulated Protein 3A (SMR3A) in Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma of the Head and Neck. Anticancer Res 36(2): 611-615.

Zaoui, K., J. Doll, P. Stiebi, P. Federspil, P. K. Plinkert and J. Hess (2016). [Diabetes mellitus as a prognostic marker in oropharyngeal and laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma]. HNO 64(7): 479-486.

Zaoui, K. and J. Hess (2016). [Concepts to improve current treatment regimens in head and neck cancer]. HNO 64(7): 448-449.


Bayo, P., A. Jou, A. Stenzinger, C. Shao, M. Gross, A. Jensen, N. Grabe, C. H. Mende, P. V. Rados, J. Debus, W. Weichert, P. K. Plinkert, P. Lichter, K. Freier and J. Hess (2015). Loss of SOX2 expression induces cell motility via vimentin up-regulation and is an unfavorable risk factor for survival of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Mol Oncol 9(8): 1704-1719.

De Ponti, A., L. Wiechert, D. Schneller, T. Pusterla, T. Longerich, N. Hogg, A. Vogel, P. Schirmacher, J. Hess and P. Angel (2015). A pro-tumorigenic function of S100A8/A9 in carcinogen-induced hepatocellular carcinoma. Cancer Lett 369(2): 396-404.

De Ponti, A., L. Wiechert, A. Stojanovic, T. Longerich, S. Marhenke, N. Hogg, A. Vogel, A. Cerwenka, P. Schirmacher, J. Hess and P. Angel (2015). Chronic liver inflammation and hepatocellular carcinogenesis are independent of S100A9. Int J Cancer 136(10): 2458-2463.

Fernandez-Ulibarri, I., K. Hammer, M. A. Arndt, J. K. Kaufmann, D. Dorer, S. Engelhardt, R. E. Kontermann, J. Hess, H. Allgayer, J. Krauss and D. M. Nettelbeck (2015). Genetic delivery of an immunoRNase by an oncolytic adenovirus enhances anticancer activity. Int J Cancer 136(9): 2228-2240.

Freudlsperger, C., D. Horn, S. Weissfuss, W. Weichert, K. J. Weber, D. Saure, S. Sharma, G. Dyckhoff, N. Grabe, P. Plinkert, J. Hoffmann, K. Freier and J. Hess (2015). Phosphorylation of AKT(Ser473) serves as an independent prognostic marker for radiosensitivity in advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Int J Cancer 136(12): 2775-2785.

Funk, S., R. Mark, P. Bayo, C. Flechtenmacher, N. Grabe, P. Angel, P. K. Plinkert and J. Hess (2015). High S100A8 and S100A12 protein expression is a favorable prognostic factor for survival of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Int J Cancer 136(9): 2037-2046.

George, B., D. Horn, P. Bayo, K. Zaoui, C. Flechtenmacher, N. Grabe, P. Plinkert, V. Krizhanovsky and J. Hess (2015). Regulation and function of Myb-binding protein 1A (MYBBP1A) in cellular senescence and pathogenesis of head and neck cancer. Cancer Lett 358(2): 191-199.

Horn, D., J. Hess, K. Freier, J. Hoffmann and C. Freudlsperger (2015). Targeting EGFR-PI3K-AKT-mTOR signaling enhances radiosensitivity in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Expert Opin Ther Targets 19(6): 795-805.

Leipold, A., J. Hess and K. Zaoui (2015). [The epigenome. Target for innovative therapies in head and neck carcinoma]. HNO 63(11): 786-791.

Schrader, C. H., M. Kolb, K. Zaoui, C. Flechtenmacher, N. Grabe, K. J. Weber, T. Hielscher, P. K. Plinkert and J. Hess (2015). Kallikrein-related peptidase 6 regulates epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and serves as prognostic biomarker for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients. Mol Cancer 14: 107.

Seidensaal, K., A. Nollert, A. H. Feige, M. Muller, T. Fleming, N. Gunkel, K. Zaoui, N. Grabe, W. Weichert, K. J. Weber, P. Plinkert, C. Simon and J. Hess (2015). Impaired aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 subfamily member 2A-dependent retinoic acid signaling is related with a mesenchymal-like phenotype and an unfavorable prognosis of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Mol Cancer 14(1): 204.

Thierauf, J., J. A. Veit, A. Affolter, C. Bergmann, J. Grunow, S. Laban, J. K. Lennerz, L. Grunmuller, C. Mauch, P. K. Plinkert, J. Hess and T. K. Hoffmann (2015). Identification and clinical relevance of PD-L1 expression in primary mucosal malignant melanoma of the head and neck. Melanoma Res 25(6): 503-509.

Wagner, S., N. Wurdemann, C. Hubbers, M. Reuschenbach, E. S. Prigge, G. Wichmann, J. Hess, A. Dietz, M. Durst, I. Tinhofer, M. von Knebel-Doberitz, C. Wittekindt and J. P. Klussmann (2015). [HPV-associated head and neck cancer : Mutational signature and genomic aberrations]. HNO 63(11): 758-767.

Wichmann, G., M. Rosolowski, K. Krohn, M. Kreuz, A. Boehm, A. Reiche, U. Scharrer, D. Halama, J. Bertolini, U. Bauer, D. Holzinger, M. Pawlita, J. Hess, C. Engel, D. Hasenclever, M. Scholz, P. Ahnert, H. Kirsten, A. Hemprich, C. Wittekind, O. Herbarth, F. Horn, A. Dietz and M. Loeffler (2015). The role of HPV RNA transcription, immune response-related gene expression and disruptive TP53 mutations in diagnostic and prognostic profiling of head and neck cancer. Int J Cancer 137(12): 2846-2857.


Horwitz, E., I. Stein, M. Andreozzi, J. Nemeth, A. Shoham, O. Pappo, N. Schweitzer, L. Tornillo, N. Kanarek, L. Quagliata, F. Zreik, R. M. Porat, R. Finkelstein, H. Reuter, R. Koschny, T. Ganten, C. Mogler, O. Shibolet, J. Hess, K. Breuhahn, M. Grunewald, P. Schirmacher, A. Vogel, L. Terracciano, P. Angel, Y. Ben-Neriah and E. Pikarsky (2014). Human and mouse VEGFA-amplified hepatocellular carcinomas are highly sensitive to sorafenib treatment. Cancer Discov 4(6): 730-743.

Schumacher, M., C. Schuster, Z. M. Rogon, T. Bauer, N. Caushaj, S. Baars, S. Szabowski, C. Bauer, M. Schorpp-Kistner, J. Hess, S. Holland-Cunz, E. F. Wagner, R. Eils, P. Angel and B. Hartenstein (2014). Efficient Keratinocyte Differentiation Strictly Depends on JNK-Induced Soluble Factors in Fibroblasts. J Invest Dermatol 134(5): 1332-1341.

Koffler, J., S. Sharma and J. Hess (2014). Predictive value of epigenetic alterations in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Mol Cell Oncol 1(2): e954827.


Finimundy, T. C., G. Gambato, R. Fontana, M. Camassola, M. Salvador, S. Moura, J. Hess, J. A. Henriques, A. J. Dillon and M. Roesch-Ely (2013). Aqueous extracts of Lentinula edodes and Pleurotus sajor-caju exhibit high antioxidant capability and promising in vitro antitumor activity. Nutr Res 33(1): 76-84.

Holzinger, D., C. Flechtenmacher, N. Henfling, I. Kaden, N. Grabe, B. Lahrmann, M. Schmitt, J. Hess, M. Pawlita and F. X. Bosch (2013). Identification of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas with active HPV16 involvement by immunohistochemical analysis of the retinoblastoma protein pathway. Int J Cancer 133(6): 1389-1399.

Koffler, J., D. Holzinger, G. A. Sanhueza, C. Flechtenmacher, K. Zaoui, B. Lahrmann, N. Grabe, P. K. Plinkert and J. Hess (2013). Submaxillary gland androgen-regulated protein 3A expression is an unfavorable risk factor for the survival of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma patients after surgery. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 270(4): 1493-1500.

Kostareli, E., D. Holzinger, O. Bogatyrova, T. Hielscher, G. Wichmann, M. Keck, B. Lahrmann, N. Grabe, C. Flechtenmacher, C. R. Schmidt, T. Seiwert, G. Dyckhoff, A. Dietz, D. Hofler, M. Pawlita, A. Benner, F. X. Bosch, P. Plinkert, C. Plass, D. Weichenhan and J. Hess (2013). HPV-related methylation signature predicts survival in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas. J Clin Invest 123(6): 2488-2501.

Leibold, J. S., A. Riehl, J. Hettinger, M. Durben, J. Hess and P. Angel (2013). Keratinocyte-specific deletion of the receptor RAGE modulates the kinetics of skin inflammation in vivo. J Invest Dermatol 133(10): 2400-2406.

Mark, R., J. L. Bermejo, A. Bierhaus, P. K. Plinkert, P. Angel and J. Hess (2013). The receptor for advanced glycation end products is dispensable in a mouse model of oral and esophageal carcinogenesis. Histol Histopathol 28(12): 1585-1594.

Pusterla, T., J. Nemeth, I. Stein, L. Wiechert, D. Knigin, S. Marhenke, T. Longerich, V. Kumar, B. Arnold, A. Vogel, A. Bierhaus, E. Pikarsky, J. Hess and P. Angel (2013). Receptor for advanced glycation endproducts (RAGE) is a key regulator of oval cell activation and inflammation-associated liver carcinogenesis in mice. Hepatology 58(1): 363-373.


Acuna Sanhueza, G. A., L. Faller, B. George, J. Koffler, V. Misetic, C. Flechtenmacher, G. Dyckhoff, P. P. Plinkert, P. Angel, C. Simon and J. Hess (2012). Opposing function of MYBBP1A in proliferation and migration of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells. BMC Cancer 12: 72.

Kostareli, E., D. Holzinger and J. Hess (2012). New concepts for translational head and neck oncology: lessons from HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas. Front Head Neck Cancer 2: 1-10.

Peterziel, H., J. Muller, A. Danner, S. Barbus, H. K. Liu, B. Radlwimmer, T. Pietsch, P. Lichter, G. Schutz, J. Hess and P. Angel (2012). Expression of podoplanin in human astrocytic brain tumors is controlled by the PI3K-AKT-AP-1 signaling pathway and promoter methylation. Neuro Oncol 14(4): 426-439.

Singer, S., R. Zhao, A. M. Barsotti, A. Ouwehand, M. Fazollahi, E. Coutavas, K. Breuhahn, O. Neumann, T. Longerich, T. Pusterla, M. A. Powers, K. M. Giles, P. J. Leedman, J. Hess, D. Grunwald, H. J. Bussemaker, R. H. Singer, P. Schirmacher and C. Prives (2012). Nuclear pore component Nup98 is a potential tumor suppressor and regulates posttranscriptional expression of select p53 target genes. Mol Cell 48(5): 799-810.

Wiechert, L., J. Nemeth, T. Pusterla, C. Bauer, A. De Ponti, S. Manthey, S. Marhenke, A. Vogel, U. Klingmuller, J. Hess and P. Angel (2012). Hepatocyte-specific S100a8 and S100a9 transgene expression in mice causes Cxcl1 induction and systemic neutrophil enrichment. Cell Commun Signal 10(1): 40.


Krenzer, S., H. Peterziel, C. Mauch, S. I. Blaber, M. Blaber, P. Angel and J. Hess (2011). Expression and function of the kallikrein-related peptidase 6 in the human melanoma microenvironment. J Invest Dermatol 131(11): 2281-2288.

Lazic, D., F. Alborzi, G. P. Marcuzzi, P. Angel, J. Hess, H. Pfister and B. Akgul (2011). Enhanced StefinA and Sprr2 expression during papilloma formation in HPV8 transgenic mice. J Dermatol Sci 62(2): 84-90.

Im Neuenheimer Feld 400
69120 Heidelberg

06221 56-6999

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