Skin Inflammation and Cancer

Our vision  is to stop chronic inflammation and break the immune privilege (tolerance) of cancers. Our goal  is to discover novel molecular disease targets, innovative therapies, and ways to modify the immune system to fight disease. Our mission  is to unravel how disturbances in the immune defense lead to chronic inflammatory skin diseases and cancer.

Research focus areas

We explore how disturbances in the immune defense and environmental factors such as bacterial toxins and metabolites drive chronic skin inflammation and cancer.

Our primary interests are skin inflammation and cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL), which is characterized by the presence of malignant T cells in chronically inflamed skin. We focus on inflammatory skin responses, cytokine signaling, novel oncogenic pathways, crosstalk between malignant and non-malignant skin cells, and how bacterial product/metabolites/toxins and xenobiotics fuel skin chronic inflammation, malignant transformation and disease progression (c.f. below).

We integrate studies on inflammation and disease models using in vitro and ex vivo models, artificial 3D skin, and animal models to study transcriptional and translational regulation, gene expression profiling, miRNAs, cytokine expression, signaling and cellular interaction involving immune cells, keratinocytes, stromal cells and cancer cells and how such interactions are influenced by bacteria and their toxins and metabolic products as well as xenobiotics.

Senior group members:
Niels Ødum, Professor, MD, DMSci. Group leader
Anders Woetmann, PhD, Professor
Thomas Litman, PhD, Professor
Thorbjørn Krejsgaard, PhD, Associate professor

Junior group members include:
4 post docs
7 PhD students
8 graduate students
1 technician/lab manager

About Skin Inflammation and Cancer Group

Group Leader: Niels Ødum

Heading a research group of 14-16 including associate and assistant professors, post docs and PhD students visiting scientists, as well as 5-10 graduate students and a technician. Project manager of “miRNA as a diagnostic and prognostic tools in malignant skin inflammation” involving University of Copenhagen and Mindera (USA) – previous partners Exiqon A/S, and LEO Pharma A/S Organizer and leader of an international collaboration on “Identification of novel therapeutic targets in T cell lymphoma” (DK, USA, Canada, Germany, Austria) Organizer of an international study on “Bacterial toxins in inflammation and Cancer” (DK, UK, Italy, Sweden)

Author of > 270 papers in peer-reviewed journals and patents/patent applications within the fields of immunology, immune pathology, signal transduction and gene regulation. Many publications in high (impact factor > 5) and very high (impact factor > 10) journals including Nat Immunol, Nat Commun, Blood, Genes Dev, Leukemia, and other Sum of the times cited: > 7500 H-index: 50 Author of other publications, interviews, view-point ect. (not peer reviewed) in news papers and magazines, periodicals, and media like "Ingeniøren", "Ugeskrift for Læger", news and publications from "Kræftens Bekæmpelse", "Danmarks Radio", and other

Academic and Research Achievements

Made many scientific discoveries including identifying new HLA genes, their function and importance in transplantation and chronic inflammatory diseases, unraveled Interleukin-2 signal cascades and pathological signaling in T cell lymphoma and skin inflammation, discoveries of oncogenes and their targets and functions, diagnostic miRNA profiling of inflammatory skin disorders, identification of novel therapeutic targets, development of novel drug candidates, and other discoveries published in more than 270 international peer reviewed journals and patents (cf. above)

Initiator of the novel Master Education in Immunology & Inflammation

Instigator and inventor of a novel master education in Immunology and Inflammation at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. The education is unique as it involves a close collaboration between the academic environment at the University and the majority of Pharmaceutical companies in the Greater Copenhagen area. The education was launched in September 2016.

Industrial collaboration

Scientific collaboration with Mindera Corp, Micreos, H- Lundbeck, Bioneer, Exiqon, and Zealand Pharma. Participated in novel drug discovery and development with several pharmaceutical companies. Member of the Scientific Advisory Board at Mindera Corp, a Californian based company developing novel micro-needle devices to human subjects and subsequent analysis by qPCR and RNA-Seq from skin.

Science administration

Consultant for Human Frontier Science Program, Strasbourg CEDEX, France, Imperial Cancer Research Foundation UK, and the Broad Association (USA). Reviewer for multiple international journals and organizer/co-organizer of several International conferences. Key-note speaker and chairman of sessions on immune regulation/inflammation/lymphoma at international conferences. Since 2007 Expert assessor and consultant for the Research Council of Norway and ad hoc consultant to the Swedish-, Baltic-, and Dutch- research councils and the Dutch Cancer Research Council. Appointed member of the Danish Research Council – Forskningsrådet for Sundhed og Sygdom (FSS) for a 6 year period from 2013-2019. Member of the FSS executive committee from 2017. From 2018-2022 appointed member of the Scientific Advisory Board (KBVU) for the Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse) and other private foundations.

Anders Woetmann, Professor, PhD

Research interests
Biology of skin immunity, inflammatory skin disorders, immune regulation, signal transduction, drug development, tumor immunology & biology, microbiota-immune system interactions

Publications and patents
Author of 91 papers in international peer-reviewed journals. Google Scholar: 3213 citations, H-index=31. Web of Science: 2305 citations, H-index=26.
Co-owner of patent number: WO2013011378-A1 and pending patent: P017300DK1.

Science administration
Editor for Nature Scientific Reports. Editor for APMIS.
Reviewer for Leukemia, J. Invest. Dermatol., British J. Cancer¬, and others.

Head of Master Education in Immunology & Inflammation
Head of the novel master education in Immunology and Inflammation at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Short description of research
I have a strong immunologic background and is an acknowledged expert in cutaneous T cell lymphomas, skin inflammation and regulatory mechanisms controlling the immune system,
The main focus of my research for the last years has been:

  • On understanding the molecular mechanisms driving disease development of both cutaneous T cells lymphoma and benign skin inflammatory diseases.
  • On understanding the role of bacterial derived metabolites in regulation of the innate and adaptive immune system, and how these impact disease development
  • Furthermore, as part of my research area I have also been involved in the development of new tools for improved diagnostic distinction between benign, and malignant skin diseases (miRNA profiling, patent: WO2013011378-A1), and in development of new drug for treatment of cutaneous T cell lymphoma (pending patent: P017300DK1).

Thomas Litman, Professor, PhD

Research interests
Medical bioinformatics, “-omics” including transcriptomics (microarray and NGS data), proteomics, genomics, metabolomics, microbiome analysis, integromics. translational research, molecular biomarkers, microRNA biology, multidrug resistance in cancer, ABC transporters, dermatology, including “skinomics” and inflammatory skin disorders (atopic dermatitis, psoriasis), cancer and immune biology

Publications and patents
Author of 86 papers in international peer-reviewed journals. Co-owner of 4 patents

  • Google Scholar
  • Citations 8859
  • h-index=43
  • i10-index: 69

Selected publications

  1. Buus TB, et al. Adaptive γδTn, γδT1 and γδNKT cells develop through three distinct pathways in the adult thymus. Nat Commun, Nat Commun. 2017 Dec 4;8(1):1911. (Impact factor 12.1)
  2. Lindahl LM, et al Prognostic miRNA classifier in early-stage mycosis fungoides: Development and validation in a Danish nationwide study. Blood. 2018 Feb 15;131(7):759-770 (Impact factor 13.2)
  3. Fanok MH; et al. Role of dysregulated cytokine signaling and bacterial triggers in the pathogenesis of Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma. JID, 2018 in press. (Impact factor 6.2)
  4. Ahmad SM, et al. The inhibitory checkpoint, PD-L2, is a target for effector T cells: Novel possibilities for immune therapy. Oncoimmunology 2017;7(2):e1390641. (Impact factor 7.7)
  5. Odum N, Lindahl LM, Wod M, Krejsgaard T, Skytthe A, Woetmann A, Iversen L, Christensen K. Investigating heredity in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma in a unique cohort of Danish twins. Blood Cancer J. 2017;7(1):e517 (Impact factor 6.1)
  6. Krejsgaard T,et al. Malignant inflammation in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma – A hostile takeover. Sem Immunopathol 2017; 39(3):269-282 (Impact factor 6.2)
  7. Lauenborg B, et al. Malignant T cells activate endothelial cells via IL-17F. Blood Cancer J, 2017;7(7):e586 (Impact factor 6.1)
  8. Nastasi C, et al. Butyrate and propionate inhibit antigen-specific CD8+ T cell activation by suppressing IL-12 production by antigen-presenting cells. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):14516
  9. Willerslev-Olsen A, et al. Staphylococcus aureus enterotoxin A (SEA) stimulates STAT3 activation and IL-17 expression in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Blood. 2016;127(10):1287-96 (Impact factor 13.2)
  10. Vieyra-Garcia PA et al.. STAT3/5 dependent IL-9 overexpression contributes to neoplastic cell survival in mycosis fungoides. Clin Cancer Res. 2016;22(13):3328-39 (Impact factor 9.6)