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IMP PhD students win the President’s Prize of the Austrian Society of Dermatology and Venereology


26 Feb 2021
Pauline Jung and Lukas Leiendecker from the Obenauf Lab

Pauline Jung and Lukas Leiendecker from the Obenauf Lab won the very first edition of the President’s Prize of the Austrian Society of Dermatology and Venereology. The prize recognises their research on the Merkel cell carcinoma, published recently in EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Pauline Jung and Lukas Leiendecker, two PhD students in the Obenauf Lab, seek to understand the molecular aberrations that drive rare skin cancers from complementary angles. Pauline investigates the transcriptional programmes of specific cancer cell lineages, while Lukas studies viral carcinogenesis using molecular and bioinformatic techniques to decipher genetic and epigenetic vulnerabilities.

The Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare yet highly aggressive and metastatic skin cancer with limited treatment options. Last year, Pauline and Lukas led a game-changing study in which they pinpointed a potential therapeutic target to treat MCC. They performed a drug screen, testing the effects of molecules that interact with epigenetic regulator proteins, and found that inhibitors of one of these proteins – the enzyme lysine-specific histone demethylase 1A (LSD1/KDM1A) – prevented MCC tumours from growing. Their results provide a strong basis for clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of LSD1 inhibitors for patients with MCC. Their work, supervised by Anna Obenauf at the IMP and Thomas Wiesner from the Medical University of Vienna, was published in EMBO Molecular Medicine in October 2020.

In recognition of their ground-breaking research, the president of the Austrian Society of Dermatology and Venereology created a prize awarded to researchers based in Austria for their significant publications in dermatology and venereology.

Before she joined the IMP and the Vienna BioCenter PhD Program, Pauline was trained in biomedicine at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Lukas was trained in biochemistry at the University of Konstanz, Germany.

Original publication

Leiendecker L.*, Jung P.S.*, Krecioch I., Neumann T., Schleiffer A., Mechtler K., Wiesner T., and Obenauf A.C. LSD1 inhibition induces differentiation and cell death in Merkel cell carcinoma. EMBO Molecular Medicine, 7 October 2020. *Co-first authorship

Further reading

Targeting cell fate regulators to treat rare skin cancer

Vienna BioCenter PhD Program

The Obenauf Lab

More on the Obenauf Lab