Research Focus

Molecular mechanisms of metastasis and therapeutic intervention

Several factors contribute to the poor outcome of cancer patients, but the ability of cancer cells to leave the primary tumor and establish inoperable metastases is a major impediment to successful therapy. Although most cancer patients die of complications resulting from the effects of metastases, the basic molecular and cellular mechanisms that endow a tumor cell with the ability to leave the primary tumor, survive during transit through the blood, and establish and maintain a new tumor in a secondary organ remain incompletely understood.

Using advanced in vivo models of metastatic cancer and combining those with powerful quantitative DNA-barcoding technology we are scrutinizing the molecular mechanisms that allow cancer cells to metastasize and how this process can be inhibited. Given most cancers’ high intrinsic resistance to established and newly developed targeted therapies we furthermore use these models to study the underlying mechanisms of resistance and how they can be overcome, getting one step closer to efficient cancer therapy.

Cell Plasticity and Metastasis

University Hospital Essen
West German Cancer Center
WTZ-F R1.001
Hufelandstr. 55
45147 Essen

Tel.: 0201 723 8142
Fax: 0201 723 6825

For inquiries regarding open Masterstudent, PhD or Postdoc positions please send your CV and a short cover letter to Barbara Grüner – barbara.gruener[at]

Prof. Dr. rer. nat.
Barbara M. Grüner

Professorship for Translational Oncology / Personalized Tumortherapy Medical Spokesperson Sarcomacenter Essen

Nancy Meyer


Dr. rer. nat.
Madeleine Dorsch

Postdoctoral fellow, lab manager

Dr. rer. nat.
Huiqiang Cai

Postdoctoral fellow

Philip Dujardin, M.Sc.

PhD student

Eva Hahn


Sebastian Urban, M.Sc

PhD student

Anna Baginska, M.Sc.

PhD student

Marc Biller

MD Student

Shannon Conroy M.Sc.

PhD student

Patricia Munteanu, M.Sc.

PhD student

Julia Zummack, M.Sc.

PhD student

Marina Martinez Cruz, M.Sc.

PhD student

Nele Liedtke

Master student

Selected publications

Zecha J, Bayer FP, Wiechmann S, Woortman J, Berner N, Müller J, Schneider A, Kramer K, Abril-Gil M, Hopf T, Reichart L, Chen L, Hansen FM, Lechner S, Samaras P, Eckert S, Lautenbacher L, Reinecke M, Hamood F, Prokofeva P, Vornholz L, Falcomatà C, Dorsch M, Schröder A, Venhuizen A, Wilhelm S, Médard G, Stoehr G, Ruland J, Grüner BM, Saur D, Buchner M, Ruprecht B, Hahne H, The M, Wilhelm M, Kuster B. Decrypting drug actions and protein modifications by dose- and time-resolved proteomics. Science. 2023 Mar 16:eade3925.

Dorsch M, Kowalczyk M, Planque M, Heilmann G, Urban S, Dujardin P, Forster J, Ueffing K, Nothdurft S, Oeck S, Paul A, Liffers ST, Kaschani F, Kaiser M, Schramm A, Siveke JT, Winslow MM, Fendt SM, Nalbant P, Grüner BM. Statins affect cancer cell plasticity with distinct consequences for tumor progression and metastasis. Cell Reports 2021 Nov 23;37(8):110056.

Chuang CH, Dorsch M, Dujardin P, Silas S, Ueffing K, Hölken JM, Yang D, Winslow MM, Grüner BM. Altered mitochondria functionality defines a metastatic cell state in lung cancer and creates an exploitable vulnerability, Cancer Research 2020 Nov 25;canres.1865.2020

Grüner BM, Fendt SM. Cancer cells stock up in lymph vessels to survive, Nature 2020 Sep;585(7823):36-37

Chiou SH, Dorsch M, Kusch E, Naranjo S, Kozak MM, Koong AC, Winslow MM, Grüner BM. Hmga2 is dispensable for pancreatic cancer development, metastasis, and therapy resistance, Scientific Reports 2018 Sep 18;8(1):14008.

Chuang CH, Greenside PG, Rogers ZN, Brady JJ, Yang D, Ma RK, Caswell DR, Chiou SH, Winters AF, Grüner BM, Ramaswami G, Spencley AL, Kopecky KE, Sayles LC, Sweet-Cordero EA, Li JB, Kundaje A, Winslow MM. Molecular definition of a metastatic lung cancer state reveals a targetable CD109-Janus kinase-Stat axis, Nat Medicine 2017 Mar;23(3):291-300

Grüner BM*, Schulze CJ*, Yang D, Ogasawara D, Dix MM, McFarland CD, Chuang CH, Rogers ZN, Brown JM, Cravatt BF, Bogyo M, Winslow MM. An in vivo multiplexed small molecule screening platform to identify inhibitors of metastatic seeding, Nature Methods 2016 Oct 13(10):883-9  *both authors contributed equally to this work

Denny SJ, Yang D, Chuang CH, Brady JJ, Lim JS, Grüner BM, Chiou SH, Schep A, Baral J, Hamard C, Antoine M, Wislez M, Kong C, Connolly AJ, Park KS, Sage J, Greenleaf WJ, Winslow MM. Nfib Promotes Metastasis through a Widespread Increase in Chromatin Accessibility Cell 2016 July 14;166, 1–15

Ardito CM*, Grüner BM*, Lubeseder-Martellato C, Takeuchi KK, DelGiorno KE, Carpenter ES, Halbrook CJ, Pal D, Hall JC, Mazur PK, Briel T, Herner A, Threadgill DG, Sibilia M, Washington MK, Wilson CL, Schmid RM, Raines EW, Crawford HC, and Siveke JT. EGF Receptor is Required for Kras-induced Pancreatic Tumorigenesis. Cancer Cell. 2012 Sep 11;22(3):304-17  *both authors contributed equally to this work