Essen University Medical Center, University of Duisburg-Essen

The Essen University Medical Center comprises the Essen University Hospital as well as twelve affiliated companies and is the leading center of health competence in the Ruhr Area and on its way to become a high-end Smart Hospital. The focus is on cardiovascular medicine, oncology and transplantation. With the West German Tumor Center, one of the largest tumor centers in Germany, the Essen University Medical Center has a wide-ranging significance for the care of patients across the region. The Skin Cancer Center of the Department of Dermatology is part of the West German Tumor Center and is well known as an internationally recognised centre of excellence for all aspects in the treatment of melanoma. We have a variety of clinical trials running and a particular experience in the use of interferon, immunotherapy and small molecules for melanoma over many years.

The Vascular Oncology & Metastasis Group headed by PD Dr. rer. nat. Iris Helfrich ( is interested in understanding the multifactorial steps of melanoma metastasis and the reciprocal communication of tumor cells with cells of the microenvironment with regard to cancer therapy. Heterogeneity of the mutational landscape of tumors indicates that tumor diseases are much more complex than histology-based classification suggests. For this, we will use our pipelines, which have been developed in the context of the International Cancer Genome Consortium, The Cancer Genome Atlas project and platforms providing tumor transcriptome, genomics and clinical data to analyse and statistically validate tumorigenic significance of the implicated DNA helicases in multiple cancer entities.

Role in the AntiHelix project

State-of-the-art 2D/3D in vitro assays to monitor DNA helicase-dependent cell function and activation of signaling pathways in real time will be carried out by ESR9. In addition, various experimental tumor models (xenotransplantation / genetically controlled spontaneous melanoma models) and intra-vital imaging / high-resolution microscopy will be employed to identify DNA helicase-mediated tumor modulating mechanisms under dynamic environmental conditions.

The AntiHelix Team

Iris HelfrichESR9
Dirk SchadendorfESR9

Iris Helfrich

Iris Helfrich is the Head of the “Vascular Oncology & Metastasis” Research Unit at the Skin Cancer Unit of the Department of Dermatology (since 2008) and part of the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), Partner Site Essen/Düsseldorf, Essen, Germany. She graduated in Biology at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg. After her PhD in the lab of Prof. Dr. H. Zur Hausen at the Department of Applied Tumor Virology at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) Heidelberg, she gained Post-doc experience in the field of skin homeostasis and skin cancer at the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC), University of Cologne and DKFZ Heidelberg. In 2008 she established the scientific focus of Vascular Oncology & Metastasis in malignant melanoma at the Department of Dermatology in Essen. Iris Helfrich has a long standing and strong scientific track record in preclinical tumor models and the functional analysis of the tumor microenvironment, in particular angiogenesis and metastasis. Several state-of-the-art 2D/3D in vitro assays are used to monitor cell function and activation of signaling pathways in real time, but also various experimental tumor models (xenotransplantation / genetically controlled spontaneous melanoma models) and intravital imaging / high-resolution microscopy is used to identify tumor modulating mechanisms and validate therapeutic intervention under dynamic environmental conditions.

Iris Helfrich is the supervisor of ESR9; Leader of Work Package 5 (Therapeutic validation and clinical translation); Co-organiser of the Final Plenary meeting and some training courses (theoretical course, practical classes and transferable skills).

Dirk Schadendorf

Dirk Schadendorf is the Director of the Department of Dermatology (since 2008) and the West German Cancer Center at the University Hospital Essen (since 2013).

In1986 he got the license to practice medicine, obtained post-doc training in Tumour Immunology at MSKCC in N.Y. After 6 years at the University Hospital Rudolf Virchow, Berlin, he became Assistant Professor for Dermatology in 1994. He was appointed Associate Professor for Dermato-Oncology at Mannheim University Hospital, University of Heidelberg, and Head of Skin Cancer Unit, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg. He is currently involved in more than 30 clinical studies. Since 1996 he is a Board Member of the Dermatological Oncology Cooperative Group( DeCOG) – being its president from 2002-2018. He has a strong focus on translational research and has published more than 400 peer-reviewed papers.

Within the AntiHelix consortium Dirk Schadendorf is co-supervisor of ESR9.

Sara Egea

Sara studied for a Pharmacy Degree (EQF level 7) at University of Murcia (UM, Spain) and graduated with honors in July 2020. During her undergraduate studies, she did an internship in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department (October 2018-June 2020), where she studied the effect of the E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase MGRN1 in the proliferation of melanoma cells. She has been students' representative and the General Secretary (2016-2018) and President (2018-2020) of the Pharmaceutical Student's Association of the University of Murcia.

Sara joined Essen University Medical Center as ESR9; within the Antihelix consortium she will be focussing on the therapeutic validation of DNA helicases in cancer.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 859853