Dr. M. (Michal) Heger

My group focuses on the development of minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic modalities for treatment-resistant cancers, with special emphasis on bile duct cancer (extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, eCCA). This highly lethal malignancy is a clinical nightmare in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Surgeons can only help ~20% of patients because of the tumor’s resectability at presentation, so we invest our efforts in the 80% of non-resectable patients that enter a palliative trajectory. Palliative patients typically die within 9-12 months.

The pillars of our research have been rooted in 1) minimally invasive, 2) patient-friendly, and 3) affordable diagnostic and treatment modalities. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is the main experimental treatment modality that we study. We have adopted a comprehensive approach by focusing on all relevant aspects of PDT, including the development of nanoscale carrier platforms to deliver photosensitizers and small molecular adjuvant drugs selectively to tumors (so-called 3rd- and 4th-generation photosensitizers), cancer cell responses to PDT (survival- and cell death signaling and extracellular vesicle release), PDT-induced anti-tumor immune responses, representative cell and animal models for cholangiocarcinoma, and cancer diagnostics and therapy monitoring. The last part is performed using liquid biopsies and molecular profiling (tumor-educated platelets, ctDNA, miRNA, proteins) in collaboration with other groups.