I aim to develop methods to reverse epigenetic anomalies in cancer stem cells (CSCs) to switch off the unlimited cell division and cancer growth and to understand the involvement of epigenetics in tumour development and recurrence. Epigenetic alterations are observed at the earliest stages of neoplasia within stem cells. Importantly, the alterations are reversible and can potentially be “treated”. In children, brain tumours are the leading cause of cancer-related mortality and morbidity. There are severe side-effects from treatment and survivors often experience substantial long-term problems. In vitro cultures of CSCs are indispensable tools for functional analyses and development of new therapies. However, up to now, paediatric CSC cultures have not been available. My unique cultures now enable us to study this disease closer. Induce differentiation of the CSCs will turn them less proliferative and less tumourigenic. Hence, I will screen for drugs that induce differentiation and determine the role epigenetics has on the stability of the specific differentiation stages. In addition, I will explore the relevance of the epigenome in tumour development by removing epigenetic marks through reprogramming the cells into induced pluripotent stem cells. These analyses will highlight target genes and pathways that are involved in the differentiation process. Furthermore, biomarkers will be implemented and I will study radiation-induced long-term effects to increase survival, quality of life and reduce adverse side-effects from treatment.
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