Elite Network: Local immune control of cancer

Local immune control of cancer

Our immune system is able to detect and eliminate cancer cells. Novel therapeutic strategies aim to harness the immune system’s potential to fight cancer and show remarkable success in the clinic. However, advanced cancers have often developed mechanisms to evade detection and destruction by the immune system, and the majority of patients fail to respond to current immunotherapies. The International Junior Research Group led by Dr. Jan P. Böttcher aims to understand the molecular mechanisms that impair anti-tumor immunity in order to develop new strategies for immune control of cancer.

The Junior Research Group at a glance

Place of researchMunich
AssociationInternational Doctorate Program
„i-Target: Immunotargeting of cancer“
Project duration2018 to 2023
Group leaderDr. Jan P. Böttcher
Contact the group leader
Further informationWebsite of the Institute of Molecular Immunology and Experimental Oncology

Harnessing the immune system for cancer therapy

Cancer encompasses a plethora of neoplastic diseases that severely affects - and often threatens - the life of many people around the globe. According to current estimates by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, more than 32 million people are currently living with cancer, and almost every second person alive today will be diagnosed with cancer during his or her lifetime.

While the research and the development of cancer therapies has led to a significant improvement of survival for many types of cancer, half of the people diagnosed with cancer still succumb to their disease within ten years.


It is now well established cancer cells can be detected and attacked by our immune system. Discoveries in basic research on the regulation of the immune system have rev­o­lu­tion­ized the way we think about the treatment of cancer, culminating in the award of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their discovery of the immune inhibitory receptors CTLA-4 and PD-1 in the regulation of anti-cancer immunity.

Portrait photo: Dr. Jan P. Böttcher

The structure of the research group and its association with the doctorate program i-Target provides an ideal environment for our young team to perform cutting edge research and to successfully address our research questions on cancer immune control.

Dr. Jan P. Böttcher

This research has led to the development of promising immuno­therapies that target cells of the immune system to fight cancer, such as Immune Checkpoint Inhibition and CAR T cell therapies.

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors have shown remarkable success for the treatment of advanced cancer, leading to unprecedented, long-lasting remission and potential cure in a fraction of patients.

Investigating immune control of cancer

Cancer cells have often developed mechanism to evade detection and destruction by the immune system in order to grow, which limits spon­taneous anti-cancer immunity and the success of current immuno­therapies. The group led by Dr. Jan Böttcher uses modern imaging techniques and bioinformatic analyses of cancer patient data to decipher the mechanisms that control anti-tumor immunity on a systemic level and locally within tumors and their surrounding micro­environment.

Major aims of the group are to identify and under­stand molecular mechanisms that could be targeted therapeutically to treat cancer, including the path­ways that regulate the access of innate and adaptive immune cells into tumours, the initiation and modulation of immune cell phenotypes and the local communication between immune cells within tumor tissue.

The International Junior Research Group cooperates with the Inter­national Graduate School „i-Target: Immunotargeting of cancer“ of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität of Munich, the Technical University of Munich and University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Further cooperations

Helmholtz Zentrum MunichMunich, Germany
Max Planck Institute of BiochemistryMartinsried, Germany
Wakayama Medical UniversityWakayama, Japan
The Francis Crick InstituteLondon, United Kingdom
The University of ManchesterManchester, United Kingdom
University College LondonLondon, United Kingdom