AG Houben

Roland Houben: Tumor biology of skin cancer


In our research group we are interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying the unrestricted growth of skin cancer cells. One particular focus lies on Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) a rare but highly aggressive skin cancer with viral etiology. Indeed, the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) is found monoclonally integrated in most of the MCC genomes, and MCPyV-positive tumor cell growth is dependent on the expression of viral oncoproteins, termed T antigens. Our group is interested in the molecular pathology of MCC and in particular in the interplay between viral and cellular proteins. Moreover, we are searching for new treatment options for MCC. Further skin cancers we are working on are melanoma and cutaneous T cell lymphoma.

Selected Publications

Houben R, Hesbacher S, Sarma B, Schulte C, Sarosi EM, Popp S, Adam C, Kervarrec T, Schrama D. Inhibition of T-antigen expression promoting glycogen synthase kinase 3 impairs merkel cell carcinoma cell growth. Cancer Lett. 2022 Jan 1;524:259-267. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2021.10.031. Epub 2021 Oct 28. PMID: 34715251.

Kervarrec T, Appenzeller S, Samimi M, Sarma B, Sarosi EM, Berthon P, Le Corre Y, Hainaut-Wierzbicka E, Blom A, Benethon N, Bens G, Nardin C, Aubin F, Dinulescu M, Jullie ML, Pekár-Lukacs Á, Calonje E, Thanguturi S, Tallet A, Wobser M, Touzé A, Guyétant S, Houben R, Schrama D. Merkel Cell Polyomavirus‒Negative Merkel Cell Carcinoma Originating from In Situ Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A Keratinocytic Tumor with Neuroendocrine Differentiation. J Invest Dermatol. 2021 Sep 1:S0022-202X(21)02165-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2021.07.175. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34480892.

Sarma B, Willmes C, Angerer L, Adam C, Becker JC, Kervarrec T, Schrama D, Houben R. Artesunate Affects T Antigen Expression and Survival of Virus-Positive Merkel Cell Carcinoma. Cancers (Basel). 2020 Apr 9;12(4):919. doi: 10.3390/cancers12040919. PMID: 32283634; PMCID: PMC7225937.

Kervarrec T, Aljundi M, Appenzeller S, Samimi M, Maubec E, Cribier B, Deschamps L, Sarma B, Sarosi EM, Berthon P, Levy A, Bousquet G, Tallet A, Touzé A, Guyétant S, Schrama D, Houben R. Polyomavirus-Positive Merkel Cell Carcinoma Derived from a Trichoblastoma Suggests an Epithelial Origin of this Merkel Cell Carcinoma. J Invest Dermatol. 2020 May;140(5):976-985. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2019.09.026. Epub 2019 Nov 22. PMID: 31759946.

Wobser M, Weber A, Glunz A, Tauch S, Seitz K, Butelmann T, Hesbacher S, Goebeler M, Bartz R, Kohlhof H, Schrama D, Houben R. Elucidating the mechanism of action of domatinostat (4SC-202) in cutaneous T cell lymphoma cells. J Hematol Oncol. 2019 Mar 18;12(1):30. doi: 10.1186/s13045-019-0719-4. PMID: 30885250; PMCID: PMC6423872.

Schrama D, Sarosi EM, Adam C, Ritter C, Kaemmerer U, Klopocki E, König EM, Utikal J, Becker JC, Houben R. Characterization of six Merkel cell polyomavirus- positive Merkel cell carcinoma cell lines: Integration pattern suggest that large T antigen truncating events occur before or during integration. Int J Cancer. 2019 Aug 15;145(4):1020-1032. doi: 10.1002/ijc.32280. Epub 2019 Apr 4. PMID: 30873613.