Cancer Biomarkers Research Group

Cancer Biomarkers Research Group

Our group investigates the role of a newly discovered group of immune cells termed innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) within the tumor microenvironment and their interactions with malignant and non-malignant stromal cells, using a variety of interdisciplinary approaches. Our long-term research objective is to increase our understanding of the mechanisms of tumor development and identify novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers as well as prospective therapeutic targets.

Cancer is a major public health concern worldwide. Among the most common types of cancer are those, which manifest themselves in barrier tissues, including the skin, lungs, and intestine. Recently, a novel group of innate immune cells residing primarily at such barrier tissues was discovered and named innate lymphoid cells (ILCs).

ILCs are lymphocytes, which, unlike T and B cells, lack the expression of somatically rearranged antigen receptors and surface markers that identify their immune cell ancestry. Based on the type of cytokines produced and the transcription factors expressed, ILCs have been subdivided into five distinct subsets: natural killer (NK) cells, group 1 innate lymphoid cells (ILC1s), ILC2s, ILC3s, and lymphoid tissue inducer (LTi) cells.
The major task of ILCs is the maintenance of tissue homeostasis. However, the role of ILCs in cancer seems contradictory as they have been separately associated with tumor-promoting as well as tumor-suppressing activities.

A major current goal of our research is to understand the difference between the protective and pathogenic functions of ILCs. In particular, we work under the assumption that the role of ILCs in cancer is defined by the type of interactions with molecular and cellular components of the tumor microenvironment.
Using melanoma as a model, we have already found that ILC2s exert an anti-tumor response through the recruitment and activation of eosinophils. In contrast, melanoma cells deploy an array of mechanisms such as acidification of the tumor microenvironment, in order to escape recognition and destruction by ILC2s (Wagner and Koyasu, 2019 Trends Immunol; Wagner et al., 2020 Cell Reports).

Insights into how different tumor microenvironments and tumor developmental stages affect ILCs provide an opportunity to increase our understanding of the mechanisms of tumor development and to identify novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers as well as prospective therapeutic targets.

Marek Wagner, Ph.D., principal investigator

Marek Wagner received his Ph.D. in cancer research from the University of Bergen (Bergen, Norway) with part of his research performed at Harvard Medical School & Children’s Hospital Boston (Boston, USA) as a member of the Vascular Biology Program established by Dr. Judah Folkman. For his doctoral studies, he focused on the tumor microenvironment and made a seminal discovery by identifying an angiogenic potential of tumor-associated adipose tissue (Wagner et al., Angiogenesis 2012). During his postdoctoral training at the University of Bergen (Bergen, Norway), he found that the establishment of the tumor inflammatory microenvironment depends on the presence of functional lymphatic vessels (Lund and Wagner et al., JCI 2016). He also joined RIKEN (Yokohama, Japan) and worked in the laboratory headed by Dr. Shigeo Koyasu who identified a subset of innate lymphocytes, which produce type 2 cytokines and are now called group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s). Together with Dr. Koyasu, he contributed to the development of a new field of immunology by carrying out studies to assess the role of ILC2s in tumor growth and progression (Wagner et al., Cell Reports 2020). From January 2022, Marek Wagner is leading the Cancer Biomarkers Research Group at Łukasiewicz – PORT (Wrocław, Poland).

If you are interested in joining our group, contact us at: