© Fabian Strauch/UDE

New at UDE/UK Essen: Barbara T. Grünwald

Organizational artist cancer

  • von Dr. Alexandra Nießen
  • 08.08.2023

Tumors love to fight for their lives: cancer constantly feeds and changes. This allows it to evade the body's surveillance as well as many therapies. Dr. Barbara T. Grünwald, new Professor of Tumor Heterogeneity and Translational Systems Biology at the UDE Faculty of Medicine, describes the survival strategy of cancer cells. She develops novel cancer therapies at the West German Tumor Center Essen of the UK Essen.

In Germany, more than 4.6 million people suffer from cancer. More than 500,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. Half of them have tumors in the breast, colon, lung or prostate; the incidence of breast and prostate cancer varies greatly depending on gender, and in the case of lung cancer, men are affected significantly more often.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in Germany - this prompts the research question: Why is cancer so adaptable and resistant? "Tumors adapt to different conditions. This applies both to the region of the organism they encounter during metastasis and to biological and therapeutic adversities. Tumor tissues are a complex, adaptive network that is highly self-organizing. We have not yet adequately captured this," says Professor Grünwald. In addition to tumor cells, this network also includes a diverse number of cells of the connective tissue and the immune system.

Professor Grünwald would like to gain a deeper understanding of the structure of tumor tissue at UK Essen. "The composition and function of tissue varies considerably in different areas of the same tumor. These organizational units convey important characteristics of a tumor: faster growth, aggressive spread, resistance to therapy. This gives each tumor its specific clinical profile. We want to understand how the myriad components in tumor tissue interact to mediate these functions. Only then will we be able to effectively understand and manipulate malignant behavior," says the UDE scientist.

After studying molecular biotechnology (2005-2011), Barbara Grünwald received her PhD with honors from the Technical University of Munich in 2016. She then conducted research in Canada at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (Toronto) - first as a postdoc (2017-2022), then as an Affiliate Scientist (2022/23). She continues to hold a position there as an Adjunct Scientist (since 2023).

Further information:
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Barbara T. Grünwald, West German Tumor Center Essen, Tel. 0201/86535 barbara.gruenwald@uk-essen.de

Editorial office: Alexandra Nießen, Tel. 0203/37 91487, alexandra.niessen@uni-due.de

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