Cancer is caused by genetic, epigenetic and microenvironmental changes that facilitate the survival and proliferation of tumor cells and their ability to acquire invasive properties. The plasticity of human tumor cells generally replicates normal molecular processes occurring during development and tissue repair. In humans, cancer progression is also shaped by host immune responses that edit the final tumor-host interactions. The genetic complexity and extreme variability of human cancers means a multidisciplinary integrative approach is needed to understand the interactions between the genetic background of the host, the tumor and its microenvironment, and the impact of these on the immune system. It is becoming evident that successful anti-tumor strategies need to encompass a multimodal approach to avoid tumor escape or relapse, combining agents able to block essential signal transduction pathways with immunotherapy. To this end, experts on cancer pathways and tumor immunology both from basic and clinical disciplines need to engage in a close collaborative program to identify and test the most promising approaches, leading to tailored therapies, including personalized approaches.
The main motivation for this URPP is to foster collaboration between the best clinical and basic researchers at the UZH in the fields of clinical oncology, hemato-oncology, immunology, pathology, and molecular and developmental biology. Our aim is to accelerate the translation of knowledge generated by basic research labs into preclinical efficacy and safety assessments in relevant animal models and evaluation on human samples, followed by early clinical testing. Moreover, this URPP will motivate basic scientists to investigate questions of direct clinical relevance and thus promote a closer cooperation between basic and clinical scientists.
In addition, we will establish and characterize a live tumor cell bank. This shared live cell bank will be an extremely useful resource for all URPP members and will serve as a starting point for many functional studies in tumor cell biology.