Experimental Dermatology

Research Group Prof. Dr. Lukas Flatz

The Experimental Dermatology Laboratory is part of the Institute of Immunobiology and conducts research projects in the fields of dermatology and oncology

We investigate patient samples from the Cantonal Hospital St.Gallen using state-of-the-art immunological methods to decipher previously unknown functions of the immune system in dermatological diseases. In addition, we are supervising a prospective cohort of patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors. By studying patient samples and analyzing patient data in this cohort, we can investigate how the immune system destroys cancer cells and how autoimmune side effects occur. In addition, interventional clinical studies are being conducted in collaboration with the Oncology Department of the Cantonal Hospital St.Gallen.

Current research projects


Vaccine- and immunotherapy-induced CD8+ T cell responses against auto-, neo- and foreign antigens

Immunotherapies have shown beneficial effects in metastatic melanoma. However, in most cases the disease still relapses. In this project, we monitor patients receiving checkpoint inhibitor therapy and identify alterations on cellular levels as well as on the general disease progression. This will help us in the future
to individualize therapies for melanoma patients and predict the best treatment to the growing number of new checkpoint inhibitors. Furthermore, we address the feasibility of a new antitumor vaccine expressing tumor-associated antigens to initiate potent innate and adaptive immune responses. Therapeutic vaccination should induce CD8+ T cell responses resulting in delayed tumor growth and increased survival.

Swiss National Science Foundation, Professorship
Fördermittel Universität Zürich
Principal investigator: Lukas Flatz

Deciphering anti-PD1-induced autoimmune skin toxicity in non-small cell lung cancer

The introduction of checkpoint inhibitors has significantly changed the perspective of patients, particularly for melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer. The duration and efficacy of responses to checkpoint inhibitor treatment comes with a substantial inter-individual heterogeneity. In this project, we will assess the role of anti-self T cell responses in non-small cell lung cancer patients undergoing checkpoint inhibitor treatment and investigate whether autoimmune toxicities are associated with an improved outcome for the patient.

Krebsliga Schweiz
Principal investigator: Lukas Flatz

Tertiary lymphoid structures in metastatic melanoma and nonsmall cell lung cancer tissues as predictive markers for the outcome of checkpoint inhibitor treatment

Treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors has revolutionized the therapy of many cancers. However, no predictive biomarkers indicating which patients will benefit from the therapy are available. In this project, we will investigate whether the presence of tertiary lymphoid structures within the tumor microenvironment
is a predictive marker for the clinical response including adverse effects to immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment.

Cancer Research Center, Universität Zürich
Principal investigator: Lukas Flatz, Maries van den Broek (Universität Zürich)

Mechanismen der COVID-19 verursachten pulmonalen Autoimmunität

Lungenliga St.Gallen – Appenzell
Principal investigator: Lukas Flatz

T cell receptor and single-cell RNA sequencing to determine the specificity and phenotype of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in melanoma during immune checkpoint blockade

Immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy has proven to significantly prolong progression-free and overall survival in patients with melanoma. However, only a subset of patients experiences these clinical benefits. We hypothesize that tumor-specific T cells found in the peripheral blood of melanoma patients before immunotherapy are also present in the tumor tissue itself. The subsequent treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors leads to changes in the frequency and phenotype of tumor-specific T cells in the peripheral blood and the tumor tissue.

Stiftung für Naturwissenschaftliche und Technische Forschung (Liechtenstein)
Principal investigator: Lukas Flatz

Towards functionalized nanoparticles for immunotherapy

Forschungsförderung Kantonsspital St.Gallen
Principal investigator: Marija Buljan, Lukas Flatz

The role of humoral and cellular autoimmunity for the severity of COVID-19

Forschungsförderung Kantonsspital St.Gallen
Principal investigator: Lukas Flatz


Research and clinical trial database

In the research and clinical trial database of the KSSG, you will find more detailed information about the individual research projects and publications of the research group