Kliniken & Institute ... Institute Pathologisches Institut... Abteilungen Allgemeine Pathologie ... Forschung Arbeitsgruppen AG Gaida Pancreatic...

Pancreatic cancer research group / AG Gaida

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly aggressive neoplasm with a 5-year survival rate of approximately 6%. The therapeutic options are very limited and only effective in early stages of disease, at least in part due to the high plasticity and chemoresistance of the tumor cells. In search of novel therapeutic options, the stroma surrounding the tumor comes into focus. Of note, in PDAC the stroma contributes to up to 90 % of the tumor mass, and consists of fibrous tissue and fibroblasts, resident tissue cells (adipocytes, neurons), and a significant number of infiltrating immune cells (e.g. T cells, macrophages, neutrophils). Apparently, those tumor-infiltrating immune cells are insufficient in eliminating the tumor. There is even evidence that they are a major source of cytokines that promote angiogenesis and metastasis, induce resistance to chemotherapeutic agents, and help to escape from antitumor host defense mechanisms. Moreover, also other host cells, such as activated myofibroblasts, which are part of the tumor microenvironment release protumorigenic factors and thus promote the aggressiveness of PDAC

We aim to decipher the molecular mechanisms underlying the interaction of host (immune) cells in the tumor stroma with the tumor cells. The focus is on the respective signaling pathways with the objective to identify molecular targets for interventional therapy.

Current projects:

Role of alternatively activated T cells in interaction with pancreatic tumor cells
Deciphering tumor-promoting mechanisms of tumor-infiltrated neutrophils
Mechanisms of host-cell triggered tumor-cell invasion
Comparison of the plasticity of tumor-associated immune cells and immune cells in acute and chronic infections

 Kidney fibrosis (Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit with EMBL)

Group members:

Matthias Gaida, M.D. (principal investigator, MMPU group leader)

G. Maria Hänsch, Ph.D. (Professor emeritus)

Alica Linnebacher, M.Sc. (Ph.D. student)

Nicole Marnet, research technician

Melanie Heiß, research technician

Louisa Stern, M.D. student


Our group has active (national and international) collaborations with other institutions in Heidelberg, including the Department of Surgery, Department of Radiology, Clinic for Gastroenterology, Department for Orthopedics, Clinic for Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Institute of Immunology, and the German Cancer Research Center, as well as with the University of Halle, University of Mannheim,  and the University of Ulm, and the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, USA.


The research group is currently funded by the German Cancer Aid (DKH), and German Research Foundation (DFG).