Institute of Molecular Cancer Research
Mutations in DNA, the genetic material of all living organisms, can bring about changes in the properties of the mutation-containing cells, which can lead either to their death, or, alternatively, to their reprogramming, often referred to as transformation. Transformed cells lose some of their original function(s) and can acquire new ones, which may lead to unrestricted growth and – in higher organisms – to tumour formation. Our mission is to understand how mutations in DNA arise and how they lead to cancer. Our long-term goal is to position IMCR among the world’s leading institutes of molecular cancer research.
The DNA of all organisms exists in a milieu that is intrinsically mutagenic; substances that are essential for life, such as water and oxygen, as well as numerous other reagents present in the cells, constantly modify DNA bases. In addition, the cells are sometimes exposed to exogenous agents such as ultraviolet radiation, ionizing radiation or chemicals, which also damage DNA. If this damage is not repaired before the cell divides, the machinery responsible for duplicating the DNA content of the dividing cells might copy the template DNA incorrectly and thus give rise to mutations. Alternatively, DNA damage such as strand breaks might bring about deleterious genomic rearrangements or chromosome breaks. The primary focus of IMCR researchers is to understand how different types of DNA damage are repaired, and to study the consequences of DNA repair malfunction. We are also interested to learn how other types of stress, such as the exposure to pathogens, can lead to cancer, and how we can alter the course of the disease by targeting certain cancer chemotherapeutics to defined cellular niches or tissues.