Research groups

Translational Pediatric Sarcoma Research

Translational Pediatric Sarcoma Research

The mission of the division of "Translational Pediatric Sarcomas Research", which corresponds to the DKFZ division of the same name, is to improve treatment options for children and adolescents affected by sarcomas. We aim at uncovering disease mechanisms that can be used diagnostically and therapeutically to improve the long-term chances of recovery of our young patients. The focus lies on new methods that are essential for correct diagnosis and the choice of the best possible therapy. We also investigate less aggressive therapies and new approaches to overcome drug resistance of tumors. In this regard, one special objective is to decipher the interactions between acquired mutations and innate natural variants of the genome, which can play a decisive role in the development and progression of cancer, particularly in Ewing sarcoma.

We aim at developing novel therapeutic strategies based on new insights into the molecular mechanisms of disease following two major lines of research (see research areas). Our investigations start with the analysis of the patients’ tumors in situ, followed by studying patient-derived cell lines using a wide variety of in silico, in vitro, and in vivo techniques.

The division is supported by the Barbara und Wilfried Mohr Stiftung.

Translational spectrum of methods

Histology, omics‘-analyses, preclinical models, correlation with clinical data

Research areas

Dominant oncogenes often hijack or interfere with developmental pathways thereby conferring a considerable growth advantage to tumor cells. We are interested in the mechanisms through which oncogenes arrest sarcoma cells in a lineage-specific, early-committed but yet largely undifferentiated state via deregulation of key developmental pathways, and how they cooperate with them to promote tumorigenesis and cancer progression.

Primary and/or secondary resistance to conventional chemotherapeutic drugs is a frequent event in pediatric sarcoma. Chemo-resistance is a highly specific process in which tumors become resistant to certain drugs while maintaining (limited) susceptibility toward others. Underlying to this resistance is considerable plasticity due to intra-tumor heterogeneity, which enables the adaptation to therapeutic stress on the clonal and sub-clonal level. We strive for illuminating the genetic basis and biological mechanisms of tumor-heterogeneity and aim at identifying novel biomarkers for individualized risk-stratification, prediction of treatment response, and to indicate which targeted therapeutics may help overcoming resistance to conventional (chemo)therapeutics.


Research Teams

The team Translational Genomics (T. Grünewald) systematically established multi-dimensional omics-datasets of a large number of pediatric sarcomas and correlates identified molecular alterations with clinical data to identify novel driver mutations, druggable targets and prognostic/predictive biomarkers, and to create resources for hypothesis generation and functional validation.

The team Mechanisms of Cancer Progression (F. Cidre-Aranaz) aims at deconvoluting the multilayered process underlying cancer progression and metastasis. We employ systems biology approaches combining in vitro and in vivo functional characterization of potential targets with multi-omics data and clinical information to identify targetable vulnerabilities in pediatric sarcomas.

The team Innovative Therapies (S. Ohmura) investigates potential therapeutic targets for pediatric sarcomas through comprehensive analyses crossing omics and clinical data sets. Our scope lies in developing targeted approaches with a particular emphasis on therapy-refractory tumors, which may enable more effective therapies with less adverse effects.


  • Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Grünewald (Division Head & Team Leader)
  • Dr. Florencia Cidre-Aranaz (Deputy Division Head & Team Leader)
  • Dr. Shunya Ohmura (Team Leader & Postdoc)
  • Dr. Laura Romero-Pérez (PostDoc)
  • Dr. Jing Li (PostDoc)
  • Julian Musa (Physician Scientist)
  • Ji-Young Kim (Physician Scientist)
  • Martha Julia Carreño Gonzalez (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Katharina Ceranski (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Maria Colombo (Visiting PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Anna Ehlers (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Cornelius Funk (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Jia Xiang Jin (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Zuzanna Kolodynska (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Endrit Vinca (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Malenka Zimmermann (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Alina Ritter (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Tobias Faehling (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Florian Geyer (PhD/MD Thesis Student)
  • Stefanie Kutschmann (Technician)
  • Felina Zahnow (Technician)
  • Gabriele Meyer (Administration)

More information about the team can be found on the DKFZ website.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Grünewald

Head of Division "Translational Pediatric Sarcoma Research"

Postal address:

Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (DKFZ)
Div. Translational Pediatric Sarcoma Research/B410
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg



Selected Publications

  1. Marchetto A, Ohmura S, Orth MF, Knott MML, Colombo MV, Arrigoni C, Bardinet V, Saucier D, Wehweck FS, Li J, Stein S, Gerke JS, Baldauf MC, Musa J, Dallmayer M, Romero-Pérez L, Hölting TLB, Amatruda JF, Cossarizza A, Henssen AG, Kircher T,Moretti M, Cidre-Aranaz F, Sannino G, Grünewald TGP (2020). Oncogenic hijacking of a developmental transcription factor evokes vulnerability toward oxidative stress in Ewing sarcoma. Nat Commun 2020 May;11(1):2423
  2. Musa J, Cidre-Aranaz F, Aynaud MM, Orth MF, Knott MML, Mirabeau M, Mazor G, Varon M, Hölting TLB, Grossetête S, Gartlgruber M, Surdez D, Gerke JS, Ohmura S, Marchetto A, Dallmayer M, Baldauf MC, Stein S, Sannino G, Li J, Romero-Pérez L, Westermann F, Hartmann W, Dirksen U, Gymrek M, Anderson ND, Shlien A, Rotblat B, Kirchner T, Delattre O, Grünewald TG (2019). Cooperation of cancer drivers with germline regulatory variants shapes clinical outcomes. Nat Commun 2019 Sept;10(1):4128
  3. Machiela MJ, Grünewald TG, Surdez D, Reynaud S, Mirabeau O, Karlins E, Rubio RA, Zaidi S, Grossetete-Lalami S, Ballet S, Lapouble E, Laurence V, Michon J, Pierron G, Kovar H, Gaspar N, Kontny U, González-Neira A, Picci P, Alonso J, Patino-Garcia A, Corradini N, Bérard PM, Freedman ND, Rothman N, Dagnall CL, Burdett L, Jones K, Manning M, Wyatt K, Zhou W, Yeager M, Cox DG, Hoover RN, Khan J, Armstrong GT, Leisenring WM, Bhatia S, Robison LL, Kulozik AE, Kriebel J, Meitinger T, Metzler M, Hartmann W, Strauch K, Kirchner T, Dirksen U, Morton LM, Mirabello L, Tucker MA, Tirode F, Chanock SJ, Delattre O (2018). Genome-wide association study identifies multiple new loci associated with Ewing sarcoma susceptibility. Nat Commun 2018 Aug;9(1):3184
  4. Grünewald TG*, Cidre-Aranaz F*, Surdez D, Tomazou EM, de Alava E, Kovar H, Sorensen PH, Delattre O, Dirksen U (2018). Ewing sarcoma. Nat Rev Dis Primers 2018 4(1):5
  5. Grünewald TG, Bernard V, Gilardi-Hebenstreit P, Raynal V, Surdez D, Aynaud MM, Mirabeau O, Cidre-Aranaz F, Tirode F, Zaidi S, Perot G, Jonker AH, Lucchesi C, Le Deley MC, Oberlin O, Marec-Bérard P, Véron AS, Reynaud S, Lapouble E, Boeva V, Rio Frio T, Alonso J, Bhatia S, Pierron G, Cancel-Tassin G, Cussenot O, Cox DG, Morton LM, Machiela MJ, Chanock SJ, Charnay P, Delattre O (2015). Chimeric EWSR1-FLI1 regulates the Ewing sarcoma susceptibility gene EGR2 via a GGAA microsatellite. Nat Genet 2015 Sep;47(9):1073-8

Awards, Prizes, Scholarships

  • Thomas Grünewald receives the Rudolf-Virchow-Prize 2020. Press Release (in German only)
  • Cornelius Funk receives a scholarship as part of the Mildred Scheel doctoral program of the German Cancer Aid.
  • Endrit Vinca receives a Heinrich F. C. Behr scholarship from the DKFZ and Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg.

  • Anna Ehlers receives a scholarship as part of the Mildred Scheel doctoral program of the German Cancer Aid.
  • Tobias Faehling receives a Heinrich F.C. Behr scholarship from the DKFZ and Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg.