Patrick Micke and Carina Strell – From tissue biology to novel diagnostic and therapeutic targets
Our primary research interest is to decipher how cellular interactions drive cancer initiation, progression and therapy response. We study the multifaceted relationships between cancer cells and stromal cells (immune cells, fibroblasts and cells of the vasculature), as well as their direct or indirect interaction via soluble factors or extracellular matrix (ECM) components.
The importance of the tumour microenvironment
Most carcinomas arise from epithelium forming glands or ducts as well as the lining epithelium of organs. Consequently, cancer research traditionally focuses on mechanistic perturbation originating from this cellular compartment. However, cancer develops within a complex tissue context, and the microenvironment might promote or inhibit tumorigenesis. Indeed, the presence of genomic aberrations in oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes in the cancer cells is often insufficient to induce symptomatic tumour growth.
We believe that human tumorigenesis can only be understood when tissue complexity is included in the characterisation of human cancers and is even more warranted in mechanistic models. Therefore, we are convinced that diagnostic cancer tissues are the best starting point to define our research hypotheses and build the basis when formulating translational research questions.
Studying relevant patient tissues
Consequently, both of us, as PIs for the lung cancer track (Patrick Micke) and breast cancer track (Carina Strell), have compiled clinically and molecularly extensively defined patient cohorts. Tissues from these cohorts are used to elucidate the mechanisms of cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis. The application of state-of-the-art in situ techniques provides unique multidimensional spatial information on single-cell levels, connected with each individual patient’s clinical and molecular background.
Collaboration and networks
The physical localisation of our laboratory within the Pathology Department at Uppsala University Hospital, and the access to the U-CAN biobank infrastructure, guarantees easy access to relevant tissue samples. It also provides possibilities to integrate research findings early in clinical practice.
In addition, in the network of Swedish pathologists, we can test and adopt molecular methods to improve diagnostic pipelines and help clinical decision-making. The durable interdisciplinary interaction with local clinical partners and our international research partners creates a robust interdisciplinary network of strong basic, preclinical and clinical expertise. This enhances research quality and the likelihood of immediate patient benefits.
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