Identification of tumour drivers in ALCL independent of ALK and their therapeutic potential

Medical University Vienna

Dr. Olaf Merkel


Publication Link

Molecular profiling and apoptosis regulation in lymphoma

Research Interest

Olaf Merkel is a lecturer in cancer therapeutics and an experienced biochemist. His main research interests are B and T-cell lymphomas. The focus of his group are non-coding RNAs, in particular miRNA and their impact on oncogenesis and cell survival. In particular, he is interested in the role of the oncogenic miR-155 and miR-17-92 clusters. Moreover, recently he became interested in cytokine regulation by BATF and cJUN in T-cell lymphomas. Also how cytokine signals are then transduced to the nucleus by the JAK/STAT pathway. Kinases in this pathway are potential therapeutic targets.

Huan-Chang Liang

Research student



Research Interest

My first ambitions of a scientist emerged years ago during BSc course in Life Science in my home country Taiwan. In pursuit of academic aspirations I secured a place in Imperial College London, where I have completed MRes in Cancer Biology. Imperial offered a rewarding practical experience, through which I assembled a bigger picture of how lab work, cancer therapeutics and pre-clinical studies work together to propel cancer research into the future. Upon graduation I chose to stay with Imperial to work on the radiomics project as a research assistant. My next milestone sets me on a journey towards completing a PhD research supported by ETN ALKATRAS, in which my project focuses on identifying tumour drivers in ALCL independent of ALK and their therapeutic potential. Working in close collaboration between academic and leading industrial partners, such as Roche, this consortium provides multidisciplinary environment for researchers to broaden their experience and attains to the highest level of scientific excellence – a thrilling environment to work in!

Research description

For ALCL patients that do not have the ALK translocation targeted therapies do not exist and moreover ALCL ALK+ patients that are treated with ALK-inhibitors invariably relapse.

Therefore, there is a clinical need to find alternative pathways that can be used as drug targets in ALCL: identify kinases that are acitivated in ALCL; clarify the role of miR-155 which is highly expressed in ALCL, ALK-; Evaluate TYK2 and miR-155 regulated genes as drug targets.

Expected Results:
More closely define the link between G2/M arrest, ALK and TYK2 tyrosine kinase inhibition; define the “Targetome” of miR-155 in mature T-cell lymphomas; novel kinase inhibitors that are active in ALCL with and without ALK translocation 

Planned secondment(s):
Year 1: Universitaetsklinikum, Freiburg (B#13) – analysis of murine models for the presence of the identified kinases/miRNA – 2 months
Year 2: Roche (PO#3) – high throughput screen for inhibitors of identified clinical targets – 1 month

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