Cell Biology of Cancer

Florian Bassermann

Florian Bassermann is the director of the department of hematology and oncology at the University hospital Klinikum Rechts der Isar in Munich. He studied medicine in Ulm, Munich and New York and obtained his Ph.D. from TUM in 2002. After clinical activities and working as a research scientist at TUM, he took up a postdoctoral position at New York University in 2006. On his return to TUM in 2009, he became head of a German Research Foundation- (DFG-) funded Emmy Noether junior research group, completed his training leading to German medical board certification in internal medicine and hematology/oncology, and acquired his postdoctoral teaching qualification (habilitation). In 2011, he was appointed to the position of senior physician, and in 2015, he took up a tenure track professorship at TUM. In 2017, he became the head of the department of hematology and oncology. His lab moved to the newly built TranslaTUM institute in 2018.

Research Focus

Our lab focuses on the molecular pathophysiology and evolution of malignant diseases, particularly hematological neoplasms, such as B-cell malignancies and acute leukemias. Also, we are interested in selected solid cancer entities such as lung cancer.

Functionally, we focus on aberrant ubiquitin-dependent signaling pathways and other posttranslational mechanisms. The majority of cellular proteins is degraded by the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS). Therefore, the UPS orchestrates key cellular processes such as cell cycle regulation, DNA damage response, immune response, cell metabolism and programmed cell death. Besides proteasomal degradation, ubiquitination also exerts regulatory functions, depending on the specific type of ubiquitin-attachment.

Deregulation of the UPS, for example influencing the proteasomal degradation of proteins with anti- or pro-proliferative properties, is an important mechanism in the pathogenesis of cancer. Therefore, the UPS is an emerging target of anti-cancer therapy. The best-known example is the proteasome inhibitor Bortezomib, which is successfully used in the therapy of multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma.

Our lab is specialized in discovery-driven approaches that combine multi-OMIC technologies (tumor genomics and functional proteomics) with cell biology. By performing unbiased CRISPR/Cas9 library screens targeting enzymes involved in the ubiquitin-system we aim to identify new targets for the treatment of cancer.

One of our central tasks is to forward our new functional insights to direct translational application in preclinical mouse models and analyses in large, defined patient cohorts. To this end, we define and validate new therapeutic target structures and engage in respective drug development efforts, either in academia or in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies, to develop new treatment strategies that are investigated in early clinical trials.

Current research projects of our group also include the investigation of the role of ubiquitination in the regulation of immune checkpoint receptors in lung cancer as well as studies on the molecular mode of action of immunomodulatory imide drugs (IMiDs) in hematologic cancers.

Key Awards

  • Galenus von Pergamon Research award (2017)
  • Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (2015)
  • Langener Science Award from the Paul Ehrlich Institute (2015)
  • Theodor Frerichs Prize from the German Society of Internal Medicine, DGIM (2015)
  • Walther Flemming Medal from the German Society of Cellular Biology, DGZ (2010)
  • Emmy Noether Program from the German Research Foundation, DFG (2008)
  • AACR-Astellas USA Foundation Fellowship in Basic Cancer Research from the American Association of Cancer Research (2008)

Selected Publications

  • Fung E, Richter C, Yang HB, Schäffer I, Fischer I, Fischer R, Kessler BM, Bassermann F, D’Angiolella V, FBXL13 directs the proteolysis of CEP192 to regulate centrosome homeostasis and cell migration, EMBO Rep 19 (3): (2018).
  • Eichner R, Heider M, Fernández-Sáiz V, van Bebber F, Garz A K, Lemeer S, Rudelius M, Targosz B S, Jacobs L, Knorn A M, Slawska J, Platzbecker U, Germing U, Langer C, Knop S, Einsele H, Peschel C, Haass C, Keller U, Schmid B, Götze K S, Kuster B, and Bassermann F, Immunomodulatory drugs disrupt the CRBN-CD147/MCT1 axis to exert anti-tumor activity and teratogenicity, Nature Medicine 22 (7):735–743 (2016).
  • Engel K, Rudelius M, Slawska J, Ahangarian Abhari B, Altmann B, Kurutz J, Brunner A, Targosz B S, Loewecke F, Knorn A M, Gloeckner C J, Ueffing M, Fernandez-Sáiz V, Baumann U, Fulda S, Pfreundschuh M, Trümper L, Klapper W, Keller U, Jost P J, Rosenwald A, Peschel C, Bassermann F, USP9X stabilizes XIAP to regulate mitotic cell death and mediate resistance to anti-tubulin chemotherapeutics in aggressive B-cell lymphoma, EMBO Mol Med 8 (8):851–862 (2016).
  • Baumann U, Fernandez-Saiz V, Rudelius M, Lemeer S, Rad R, Knorn AM, Slawska J, Engel K, Jeremias I, Li Z, Tomiatti V, Illert AL, Targosz BS, Braun M, Perner S, Leitges M, Klapper W, Dreyling M, Miething C, Lenz G, Rosenwald A, Peschel C, Keller U, Kuster B, Bassermann F, Disruption of the PRKCD-FBXO25-HAX-1 axis attenuates the apoptotic response and drives lymphomagenesis, Nature Medicine 20(12):1401–1409 (2014).
  • Fernández-Sáiz V, Targosz BS, Lemeer S, Eichner R, Langer C, Bullinger L, Reiter C, SlottaHuspenina J, Schroeder S, Knorn, AM, Kurutz J, Peschel C, Pagano M, Kuster B, Bassermann F, SCFFbxo9 and CK2 direct the cellular response to growth factor withdrawal via Tel2/Tti1 degradation and promote survival in multiple myeloma, Nature Cell Biol 15(1):72–81 (2013).
  • Bassermann F, Frescas D, Guardavaccaro D, Busino L, Peschiaroli A, Pagano M, The Cdc14B-Cdh1-Plk1 axis controls the G2 DNA damage response checkpoint, Cell 134(2):256–267 (2008)