Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratory

The Department of Thoracic Surgery of the Inselspital Bern conducts basic or laboratory research in collaboration with the University Lung Cancer Center, the Department of BioMedical Research of the University of Bern, and partner clinics. Under the direction of PD Dr. Patrick Dorn, our research groups focus on stem cell research related to tissue regeneration and cancer, with the goal of developing new treatments for chronic lung diseases, with particular emphasis on lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Thoracic cancers include lung cancer, thymic carcinoma, tracheal tumors, and mesothelioma. Thoracic carcinomas are the most common cause of cancer-related deaths. The 5-year survival rate is ~30% for lung cancer and 5-10% for mesothelioma. This is mainly due to difficulties in early detection and a lack of effective treatments, so more effective treatment options are urgently needed. It has been postulated that tumor initiation, chemotherapy resistance, and metastases are mediated by cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells have been described in both lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The overall goal of the Thoracic Surgery Laboratory is to study how cancer cells adapt to intrinsic and extrinsic stress through mechanisms of plasticity and through heterogeneity. Specifically, we aim to comprehensively expand our knowledge of cancer stem cells and the associated molecular mechanisms underlying tumorigenesis, therapy resistance, and metastasis of thoracic malignancies, thereby making an important contribution to our long-term goal of developing better treatment strategies for cancer patients.

Research Group Ren-Wang Peng

Group members

  • Prof. Ren-Wang Peng (PhD, group leader)
  • Dr. Yanyun Gao (PhD, postdoctoral fellow)
  • Liang Zhao (PhD student)
  • Wenjuan Ning (PhD student)
  • Tuo Zhang (PhD student)
  • Haiqing Zhong (PhD student)
  • Jingyi Zhang (PhD student)
  • Christelle Dubey (laboratory technician)


General Aim

The Peng Research Group aims to unravel the molecular mechanisms driving tumor development, progression, and resistance to standard clinical cancer therapies in lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). We are particularly interested in uncovering therapeutically exploitable vulnerabilities - the ‘Achilles heel’ - of cancer cells with intrinsic or acquired resistance to cancer therapies in order to develop innovative precision medicine strategies to treat patients with thoracic tumors.

Funded by Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Swiss Cancer Research Foundation and Swiss Cancer League, our studies have led to several important findings of translational importance that are being investigated under clinical conditions.

Research Group Thomas Marti

Group members

  • PD Dr. Thomas Michael Marti (PhD, group leader)
  • Dr. Haibin Deng (MD-PhD postdoctoral fellow)
  • Huixiang Ge (PhD student)
  • Darya Karatkevich (PhD student)
  • Yantang Lin (PhD student)
  • Christelle Dubey (laboratory technician)



General Aim

The general aim of the Marti Research Group is to investigate how nucleotide/lactate metabolism and the DNA damage response machinery are associated with the tumor initiating capacity, chemotherapy response, and metastatic capacity of lung and mesothelioma cancer stem cells. In addition, we are exploiting treatment induced cellular adaptations as novel targets for cancer therapy.

Projects Research Group Peng

Current Projects

  • Deciphering therapy resistance mechanisms in KRAS-mutant lung cancer.
  • Integrative molecular characterization and personalized modelling of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).
  • Towards precision medicine approaches to treat FGFR1-amplified lung cancer.
  • Ferroptosis as an avenue to target lung cancer and MPM.

Projects Research Group Marti

Current Projects

  • The role of LDHB-dependent lactate metabolism in lung cancer initiation and chemotherapy resistance
    The goal is to investigate whether LDHB-mediated lactate utilization contributes to tumor initiation and chemotherapy resistance in KRAS-mutant lung cancer and to elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms.
  • Role of LDHB-dependent lactate metabolism in lung cancer metastasis formation
    The Group is investigating how the LDHB-mediated lactate metabolism is associated with the formation of lung cancer metastases.
  • Development of a 1-2 punch therapy for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma
    Previously, the Marti Group discovered that 5’-DFCR selectively targets chemotherapy-resistant lung cancer cells characterized by high CDA and TYMP expression ( Based on these findings, the Group is exploiting treatment induced cellular adaptations as novel targets in malignant pleural mesothelioma.