Fondation MEDIC

www.fondation-medic.ch

General research focus

[05.08.2013]

What is MEDIC interested in?

The MEDIC consortium has chosen cancer research as its research field. For a relatively small consortium of research groups it has been deemed essential to choose a common research theme. This would allow the consortium to avoid too much dispersion and to strive for collaboration and complementarity of the different groups.

What is the theme MEDIC has chosen?

The theme the group has chosen is 'Tumor-host interaction'. The topic brings together in a common theme groups with quite different research interests, but is at the same time sufficiently broad to leave individual groups sufficient leeway to continue to do what they do well. This freedom is essential for creative original research. The topic is timely: it is generally recognised that in the behaviour of cancer not only the cancer cells play an important role but also the reaction of the host (the body of the patient) to the growing cancer. The reactions of the host can be of a very different nature:

  • an important element is what is called the stromal reaction: the tissue scaffold provided by connective tissue components and blood vessels that allow cancer cells to continue to grow and become a potentially life threatening lesion
  • another important element is the immune reaction of the host immune system to the growing tumour. The fact that the tumour is there would suggest that the system failed, but attempts to reinforce the host immune response against cancer cells have been ongoing for a long time in what is called immunotherapy. Efforts to improve on immunotherapy form an important part of the activities of members of the consortium. In addition to immunocompetent cells, other inflammatory elements (notably macrophages) play a role in the defence of the body against the growing tumour.

The role of bioinformatics

Central in the consortium is a group of bio-informaticians. The presently used technology in cancer research is what is called 'high throughput', which implies that it generates enormous amounts of data. To make biological sense out of these mountains of data skilled bio-informaticians, in close collaboration with (clinician)scientists, are important players in this type of research.