Research Unit

Research Unit Radiation Cytogenetics

This independent research unit was founded on 10/1/2009 and aims to provide knowledge for the understanding of how ionising radiation causes cell toxicity and cancer. In particular, we want to identify radiation biomarkers and molecular mechanisms that are associated with radiation-induced carcinogenesis in the low-dose range and radiation sensitivity of tumour cells. Chromosome alterations that arise after misrepair of radiation-induced DNA damage serve as starting point for genome-wide screening of radiation-associated alterations. Projects on these topics are being carried out with additional funding of the EU, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Conservation and Reactor Safety, the German Cancer Aid and the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Competence Network of Radiation Research). Key findings of these projects are radiation-specific chromosome and gene alterations in thyroid and breast carcinogenesis as well as cytogenetic changes in radiotherapy-treated head and neck cancers that are correlated to reduced survival after radiotherapy and thus might represent biomarkers of radioresistant tumours.

Within the program-oriented funding (POF) of the Helmholtz Association, the research activities of the research unit are integrated in the Environmental Health program (collaborations with the Institutes of Radiation Biology, Radiation Protection, Pathology, Clinical Cooperation Group for “Molecular Oncology”). A further collaboration with the SAM program (Dept. Protein Science) exists. The research unit is organised into three research groups:

Radiocarcinogenesis (Prof. Dr. Horst Zitzelsberger)


Radiation Sensitivity  (Dr. Julia Heß)


Integrative Biology (Dr. Kristian Unger)

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