ERC Projects

ERC (European Research Counsil)


ERC means European Research Counsil and provides a special founding instrument for top scientists in Europe.

Since 2007 approx. 4,500 scientists have been rewarded with an ERC grant out of more than 43,000 applications.

Link to ERC website

  • European Research Council Executive Agency

    Klaus Pantel, PI

    Breast, prostate, lung and colorectal cancer as solid tumours derived from epithelial tissues areresponsible for 90% of all new cancers in Europe. Present tumour staging is mainly based on local tumour extension, metastatic lymph node involvement and evidence of overt distant metastasis obtained by imaging technologies. However, these staging procedures are not sensitive enough to detect early tumour cell dissemination as a key event in tumour progression. Our team has therefore focused on the development of ultrasensitive assays that allow the specific detection and molecular characterization of single tumour cells in bone marrow (DTC) and blood (CTC) of cancer patients.

    These methods allow the direct assessment of disseminating tumour cells including the detection of therapeutic targets and mechanisms of resistance in patients undergoing therapy.Based on our established network of clinical collaborations, the DISSECT project will detect and characterize DTC/CTC in patients with the four most frequent tumour entities in the EU by high resolution methods. We will investigate representative clinical studies for current interventions that may have an impact on tumour cell dissemination, including diagnostic biopsies, surgical resection of the primary tumour, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and in particular targeted therapies.

    The technologies for DTC/CTC analyses previously developed by our team will be complemented by cutting-edge technologies and adapted to the analysis to decisive molecular processes underlying the particular intervention. The results obtained in the DISSECT project will provide unique insights into the biology of tumour cell spread in humans and these insights might lead to improved concepts in the clinical management of cancer patients.

  • Klaus Pantel, PI

    EU Horizon 2020 Excellent Science, Call: ERC-2016-PoC-DL3

    As an alternative to invasive needle biopsies, the analysis of CTCs released by metastatic lesions into the blood has been recently introduced by the PI as “liquid biopsy”. The molecular analysis of CTCs before and during treatment could supply a real-time status of the landscape of metastatic tumor cell clones in an individual cancer patient. CTCs might reveal representative information on metastatic cells located at different sites because the blood represents a pool of tumor cells potentially released by all lesions in the cancer patients. Moreover, blood samples can be taken sequentially during the course of the disease and therefore allow a real-time assessment of the molecular evolution of the disease with important implications for decision making on cancer therapies.

    However, despite the obvious potential of CTCs as biomarker, current CTC capture assays require sophisticated, expensive and complex assay systems, which is the most important bottleneck for a more widespread use of CTCs as liquid biopsy. The assay development in the ongoing ERC PoC Grant CAPTURE-CTC (end: 11/2016) and the successful research on improved methods for molecular characterization of CTCs in the Advanced Investigator Grant DISSECT (end: 07/2016) of the PI has allowed to develop a novel improved platform for CTC detection. To implement our chip into future clinical decision making, we will now focus on the clinical validation of the chip platform including the development of SOPs as basis for kits for expression of therapeutic targets (e.g., PD-L1, estrogen receptor and HER2) and resistance mechanisms (androgen receptor variant 7) in CTCs. Moreover, the establishment of transient CTC cultures from chip-isolated tumor cells will foster drug testing in individual cancer patients.

    In conclusion, the CTCapture_2.0 project will be an important prerequisite for successful future commercialization of a novel liquid biopsy assay.