ResearchNew Research Project: Overcoming Tumour Resistance with Artificial Intelligence

27 October 2023

Carl Zeiss Foundation finances cross-location joint project in AI-assisted cancer research

Forecasting how aggressive brain tumours respond to certain substances with Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods – that is the goal of a research project in which bioinformaticians at Heidelberg University are involved. With the aid of experimental studies in combination with AI-based, mathematical approaches, the scientists want to develop a model with which they can predict the ability of tumour cells to adapt to therapies. These forecasts are intended to avoid possible cases of resistance. The Carl Zeiss Foundation (CZS) is making five million euros available to fund the research studies in Heidelberg and Kaiserslautern for a period of six years.

Highly invasive and aggressive brain tumours, known as glioblastomas, consist of different kinds of cancer cells with a particularly high plasticity. They possess the ability to adapt to therapies and develop resistance, so that conventional treatments like chemo- or radiotherapy prove ineffective, Prof. Dr Carl Herrmann explains. He is head of the Bioinformatics Department at the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology of Heidelberg University and a partner in the Carl Zeiss Foundation-funded project “Artificial Intelligence for treating Cancer therapy Resistance” (AI-Care). The cross-location joint project is being coordinated at the University of Kaiserslautern-Landau and the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.

By combining single cell sequencing technology with AI methods, the participating scientists want to characterise and model the key molecular processes that regulate the plasticity of glioblastomas. Prof. Herrmann’s team will process the data obtained from the single cell analysis of artificially cultivated glioblastoma tissue with the aid of machine-learning methods. In so doing they expect to derive a model able to control the behaviour of cancer cells, predict their response to medication and optimise personalised therapies. The scientists hope that their approach will not only open up new avenues in treating glioblastomas and other types of cancer but also spark new ideas for AI-assisted, customised precision medicine.

A total of ten research groups are participating in the scientific studies at the three project locations in Heidelberg and Kaiserslautern-Landau. The Carl Zeiss Foundation is funding the research studies in the context of its programme “CZS Breakthroughs: AI in Health”. With the call for interest, the foundation aims to support universities in implementing innovative and scientifically promising basic research in the field of AI-assisted health research.

About the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung

The Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung’s mission is to create an open environment for scientific breakthroughs. As a partner of excellence in science, it supports basic research as well as applied sciences in the STEM subject areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Founded in 1889 by the physicist and mathematician Ernst Abbe, the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung is one of the oldest and biggest private science funding institutions in Germany. It is the sole owner of Carl Zeiss AG and SCHOTT AG. Its projects are financed from the dividend distributions of the two foundation companies.