The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, Germany (NCT), and Protagen AG, Dortmund, Germany, have announced a collaboration to utilize Protagen’s cancer immunotherapy array to identify biomarkers that predict therapeutic response and the incidence of immune-related adverse events in urothelial carcinoma patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors.

In recent years, checkpoint inhibitors have changed treatment paradigms in cancer. They offer an enormous potential in many indications, including melanoma, lung, and urothelial carcinoma. Yet, two challenges remain: only a subset of patients respond to treatment, and checkpoint inhibitors can trigger often-severe immune-related adverse events. Through their collaboration, Protagen and NCT Heidelberg will utilize Protagen’s cancer immunotherapy array to address these challenges.


Carsten Grüllich, MD, National Center for Tumor Diseases, Heidelberg.

“Checkpoint inhibitors offer the chance to significantly improve overall survival for cancer patients, and can potentially even cure cancer in some cases,” says Carsten Grüllich, MD, a professor at NCT Heidelberg. “In urothelial carcinoma especially, they can be very successful in a subset of patients, however certain subsets suffer from drug-related toxicities. This makes it vital that we understand better which patients are likely to respond and/or suffer from immune-related adverse events. Utilizing Protagen’s cancer immunotherapy array will enable us to establish an immune profile for each patient, meaning we can assess their immunocompetence to help fight their cancer.”

Peter Schulz-Knappe, PhD, Protagen.

Peter Schulz-Knappe, PhD, Protagen.

NCT Heidelberg is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg University Hospital, and German Cancer Aid. NCT’s goal is to link promising approaches from cancer research with patient care from diagnosis to treatment, aftercare, and prevention. Central to NCT is the institute’s interdisciplinary tumor outpatient clinic, where patients benefit from an individual treatment plan prepared in a timely manner by interdisciplinary expert tumor boards. NCT’s participation in clinical studies provides access to innovative biomarker strategies and therapies.

“Our unique cancer immunotherapy array has already demonstrated its potential in malignant melanoma and prostate cancer patients,” says Peter Schulz-Knappe, MD, PhD, Protagen’s chief scientific officer. “The extension into urothelial carcinoma is our next step into an indication where cancer immunotherapies have been successful, but also face significant response and toxicity challenges. We believe that applying our technology will result in improved patient selection for novel immunotherapies and better management of risks associated with therapy. We feel privileged that Profesor Grüllich and NCT Heidelberg share this vision, and are excited about the collaboration.”

For further information, visit National Center for Tumor Diseases, Heidelberg, and Protagen.

Featured image: The National Center for Tumor Diseases, Heidelberg, Germany.