Research Programs & Groups


Dedicated research programs have been established for Tumor Immunology, Epigenetics, Genetics and Genomics, Oncogenic Signaling and Imaging and Technology Development to streamline and facilitate the translation of scientific discoveries into clinical application. In these programs, scientists and physicians from around 50 research groups and clinical departments from the UZH, USZ, Children's Hospital, Balgrist University Hospital and ETHZ work closely together aiming to develop novel therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and to ultimately improve cancer patient care.



Tumor Immunology Program


Program Overview

There is clear evidence from patients and preclinical cancer models that the immune system can control the development of malignancies, a process termed tumor immune surveillance. However, anti-tumor immune responses are frequently subverted by tumors. Recent evidence suggests that the immune system not only fails to eliminate established tumors and their metastases but it actually creates a niche enabling a pre-malignant lesion to develop into a tumor which has ”learned” to evade immune surveillance. Despite these challenges the concept of utilizing and manipulating the immune system to control or eliminate tumors is a promising therapeutic option. Over the past ten years, advances have been made in anti-cancer strategies, including the use of immunotherapies. However, insufficient attention has been paid to the development of multimodal approaches combining the inhibition of key tumor signaling pathways and immunotherapy. The aim is to improve our understanding of the interactions between tumor and the immune system by joint projects involving clinical and basic researchers as well as the biobanks. Ultimately, this will lead to design of new therapeutic strategies focusing on combined regimens and personalized approaches.

Research Groups

Burkhard Becher
Bernd Bodenmiller
Lubor Borsig
Onur Boyman
Reinhard Dummer
Lukas Flatz
Lars French
Urs Greber
Markus Manz
Christian Münz
Dario Neri
Cesar Nombela-Arrieta
Michael Scharl
Christian Stockmann
Maries van den Broek
Michael Weller

Epigenetics-Genetics-Genomics Program


Program Overview

Epigenetics refers to a number of modifications of chromatin, either to DNA directly or to its associated histone complexes that affect DNA-based processes, such as transcription, DNA repair, and replication without altering the primary sequence of DNA. Many of the hallmarks of cancer, such as malignant self-renewal, differentiation blockade, evasion of cell death, and tissue invasiveness are profoundly influenced by changes in the epigenome. The aim is to improve our understanding of networks of epigenetic regulators by joint projects involving clinical and basic researchers as well as the biobanks. This will provide further mechanistic understanding of the interplay between genetic and epigenetic alterations and will allow developing novel epigenome-targeted therapeutic strategies. A further focus of this research direction will be tumor genomics, i.e. the analysis at the genome level of entire tumor genomes by means of next generation sequencing.

Research Groups

Matthias Altmeyer
Tuncay Baubec
Felix Beuschlein
Amedeo Caflisch
Daniel Fink
Kerstin Gari
Pavel Janscak
Mitch Levesque
Massimo Lopes
Giancarlo Marra
Holger Moch
Christian Mosimann
Anne Müller
Hanspeter Nägeli
Lorenza Penengo
Gerhard Rogler
Raffaella Santoro
Alessandro Sartori
Beat Schäfer

Oncogenic Signaling Program


Program Overview

The intercellular signals and intracellular signal transduction pathways that control the development of all multicellular organisms are frequently mutated and deregulated in human cancers and as such contribute to growth and invasion. Thus, research on simple animal model organisms, such as C. elegans (roundworm) or D. melanogaster (fruit fly), significantly contributes to the understanding of genetic and biochemical events leading to cancer formation. By bringing together researchers studying oncogenic signaling pathways during normal animal development with clinical researcher studying the same pathways in human tumor cells, we generate many synergies from which both clinical and basic research will benefit. A long-term outcome of this research is that we will better understand the compensatory effects underlying cancer drug resistance of tumor cells and be able to predict the outcome of specific pharmacological interventions at the molecular level. Obtaining this knowledge is an essential requirement for the development of personalized cancer therapies.

Research Groups

Konrad Basler
Martin Baumgartner
Jean-Pierre Bourquin
Pierre-Alain Clavien
Raghvendra Dubey
Alex Hajnal
Jason Holland
Michael Hottiger
Felix Niggli
Andreas Plückthun
Martin Pruschy
Isabelle Schmitt-Opitz
Lukas Sommer
Achim Weber
Sabine Werner
Lynn Wong

Imaging & Technology Development Program

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Program Overview

We have witnessed tremendous technological progress in various fields such as computer science, robotics, sensor development, big data analysis and artificial intelligence. Many of these developments have been transferred into medicine and have contributed to a substantial improvement in diagnosis and treatment of various cancers. We aim at developing novel medical imaging methodologies such as innovative MRI sequences, targeted PET tracers for PET imaging and in particular quantitative radiomics analysis with the goal of more accurate and deep cancer characterization. In addition, wearable sensors have become broadly available and promise a comprehensive and observed independent patient characterization. Furthermore, molecular high-throughput methodologies (e.g. next-generation sequencing, epigenomics, proteomics, metabolomics and imaging) are indispensable for molecular diagnostics, patient stratification and monitoring of diseases. To integrate and exploit these enormous amounts of heterogeneous high-throughput and clinical data state-of-the the-art bioinformatics and informatics technologies are pivotal. All OMICS approaches benefit from the technological progress with substantially increased sample throughput and simultaneously reduced costs. We aim to systematically integrated these biomarkers into multi-systems decision making algorithms, treatment planning and response assessment. Ultimately, this will lead to novel personalized therapeutic strategies.

Research Groups

Matthias Guckenberger
Urs Greber
Jürg Hodler
Roger Schibli