She has directed many innovative studies in new therapies for neuroblastoma through the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) and the New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT). Neuroblastoma is a cancer that often originates in the adrenal gland in the abdomen, but also may begin in nerve tissue in the neck, chest or pelvis. She and her colleagues in the COG have shown that the metastatic form of the disease can be best treated with intensive chemotherapy, bone marrow or stem cell transplantation, and then therapy to eliminate microscopic disease with the vitamin A derivative, 13-cis-retinoic acid along with immunotherapy with anti-GD2 antibody and cytokines.
The activities of the Paediatric Oncology Research lab focus on the biology and genetics of neuroectoderm-derived tumors such as neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a typically paediatric and extremely heterogeneous tumour known to result from abnormal development of neural crest-derived sympathetic cells. Whereas low stage and infant tumours frequently undergo spontaneous remission or maturation, high stage tumors are metastatic, rapidly progress, and generally present a multi-drug and apoptosis-resistant phenotype associated to several genomic alterations. Using biochemical or global genomic approaches, we are interested to identify genetic alterations and deregulations in the apoptotic signalling pathways involved in the particular aggressive behaviour of advanced stage tumors, namely responsible for their proliferative (angiogenesis-related), apoptosis-resistant, and metastatic behaviour. In parallel, our objectives include the identification and characterisation of a drug-resistant, putative cancer progenitor neuroblastoma cell.
He received Emmy-Noether-Program of the DFG for outstanding scientific investigators in Medicine with the focus on immunotherapy of malignant disease in childhood. Relevant aspects here are over 100 publications and active funding by national and EU grants, 6 awards, 3 patents and 4 editorial boards of international journals. His clinical training in attending positions covered four areas including Pediatrics, Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation, Pediatric Intensive Care and Pediatric Hematology and Oncology. After holding the vice chairman position of Pediatrics and Pediatric BMT he was appointed full Professor and Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Greifswald.
Since many years, her research activities are focused on the role of the tumor suppressor gene ATM (Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated) in pediatric cancers. More recently, she and her colleagues of the Pediatric Oncology Lab, investiguate the role of ATM and its pathway in neuroblastoma.
Surgery remains an important step of the therapeutical strategy in paediatric oncology. I am involved since 15 years in this area and particularly interested in neuroblastoma and germ cell tumors. We have developed original surgical approach for cervicothoracic neuroblastoma and dumbbell neuroblastoma in close collaboration with neurosurgeons, orthopaedists and otolaryngologist. As a paediatric surgeon naturally involved in the treatment of congenital malformations, we are particularly interested in patients presenting tumour with a syndromic context or with a genetic predisposition to cancer (NEM, Wiedemann-Becwith, Denys-Drash…).