Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne

German Cancer Foundation granted second funding period for research on Mature T-cell lymphomas (FOR 1961)


Dr. Herling and Prof. Abken leading the Cologne project successfully synergize lymphoma biology Herling´s research group) and the facilities of applied T-cell immunology (Abken´s research group) on the model of T-cell prolymphocyte leukemia (T-PLL).

Prof. Dr. Hinrich Abken (left), Dr. Marco Herling (right), Foto l. Uniklinik Köln, Foto r. Ellen Bornkessel, Portraitfotografie für Unternehmen

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has granted a second funding period for another three years with a total volume of approximately two million euros for research on "Mature T-cell lymphomas - mechanisms of perturbed clonal T-cell homeostasis" (FOR 1961). Over 350,000 euros were granted to the groups of Dr. Marco Herling and Prof. Dr. Hinrich Abken from Cologne.

Mature T-cell lymphomas are rare and so far almost non-curable diseases. Their development is investigated by a multicentric research group that is unique in this field and is known as the "CONTROL-T: Consortium for TCR-mediated Regulation and Oncogenesis in Lymphomas of T-cells". By using their expertise in physiological regulatory T-cell homeostasis and in mathematical modeling and computer simulations, the key strategic concept of this network is combining tumor genetics and oncogenic signal modulation. The aim of the CONTROL-T Research Consortium is to achieve both structural sustainability as well as significant advances in understanding inter- and intracellular mechanisms of T-lymphomagenesis. For further information on the FOR 1961, please visit:

The German Research Foundation commented: "... a convincing and straight forward approach following the successful first funding period, which generated results highly relevant to overall understanding and clinical applications ...".

T-PLL, the most common mature T-cell leukemia, has so far a poor prognosis. Physicians and researchers can only learn about the stage-wise nature of disease evolution (from a smoldering precursor phase to overt aggressive growth) from incidentally diagnosed cases. This disorder is poorly addressed by the usual therapies, and frequently leads to death within two to three years.

Dr. Marco Herling and Prof. Dr. Hinrich Abken successfully synergize lymphoma biology (the research group of Dr. Herling) and the facilities of applied T-cell immunology (the research group of Prof. Dr. Abken) on the model of T-cell prolymphocyte leukemia (T-PLL).

In order to elucidate the role of the T cell receptor (TCR) in the development of T-PLL, the Cologne scientists use an innovative instrument, the Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs). Originally developed for the therapeutic detection of tumors, the Chimeric Antigen Receptors represent a surrogate for the postulated main growth factor of T -PLL, the TCR, composed of modules with adjustable functional units. Researchers can now investigate for the first time the developmental and molecule-dependent correlation of the TCR with key genetic changes of T-PLL. 
In the coming years the ultimate goal of the Cologne team is to advance the understanding to general therapeutic concepts for the treatment of T-PLL patients.

The two Cologne research groups, located at the University Hospital Cologne, are perfectly integrated in the local research network at the Life Science Campus of the University of Cologne. The support provided by the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC) and CECAD Cologne strengthens effectively the ongoing activities.

Dr. Herling's translational-based approach on T-PLL also represents an internationally visible focus of the German CLL Study Group headquartered in Cologne. Prof. Dr. Abken, leading international expert in this field, is one of the pioneers of CAR research. His research combines clinical aspects with basic questions of disease development.

Contact data and further information
Dr. med. Marco Herling


Herling/Vasyutina - CMMC-Project A5:

Herling - Dept. I of Internal Medicine:

Prof. Dr. med. Hinrich Abken

Abken - CMMC-Project B1:

Abken - Dept. I of Internal Medicine: