Cancer cells - Helena Carén group
Photo: Helena Carén

Group Helena Carén

Research group
Active research
Project owner
The Institute of Biomedicine

Short description

Research on epigenetic control of brain tumours from children and adults.

Research summary

Epigenetic processes control which genes that are expressed - in specific tissues and under specific conditions. Dysfunction of epigenetic control can lead to the development of diseases, including cancer. However, these changes are reversible and can potentially be corrected. Recurrence of cancer is a major problem. A good initial response to treatment often occurs, whereas recurrent tumours are difficult to cure. Cancer stem cells are thought to be a driving force behind tumour recurrence.

In the group we are studying brain tumours, from children and adults, with an epigenetic focus. The most common type of adult brain tumour is glioblastoma. Glioblastomas are highly aggressive with a median survival of less than one year. In children, brain tumours constitute 1/3 of all cancers and are the leading cause of cancer-related mortality and morbidity. There are severe side-effects from the treatment and survivors often experience substantial long-term problems.

The presence of cancer stem cells in brain tumours is well-established but knowledge on what initiate and drives the tumours, and how to target them therapeutically is missing. The long-term goals of our research are to increase survival of patients with brain tumours while decreasing adverse side-effects from treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. For this we use cancer stem cell culture that we establish from tumour tissue from patients operated with brain tumours.

Short term goal is to improve the care of these patients by developing tools for improved diagnostics and prognostics. For this aim, we use and develop DNA methylation-based diagnostic classifiers.  We are currently running a national study to evaluate the benefit of using them in the clinical diagnostics of brain tumours in children.

Cancer cell research images - Helena Carén group
Cancer cell research images.
Photo: Helena Carén group
Cancer cell research diagrams - Helena Carén group
Cancer cell research diagrams.
Photo: Helena Carén group

Tools and resources

We establish patient-derived in vitro cultures from patients undergoing surgery for brain tumours. We use a wide range of experimental and bioinformatic methods in the fields of cell- and molecular biology, pathology and genetics/epigenetics. 

Current group members

Helena Carén, PhD, Professor
Elizabeth Schepke, Researcher
Maja Löfgren, PhD, Researcher
Medha Suman, PhD, Researcher
Teresia Kling, PhD, Researcher
Ryan Kwan, PhD, Postdoc
Shiva Rezaei, PhD, Postdoc
Sandra Ferreyra Vega, PhD, Postdoc
Ida Carlsson, PhD student
Sobia Islam, PhD student
Katja Werlenius, MD, PhD student
Louise Carstam, MD, PhD student
Olivia Näslund, MD, PhD student
Anna Pennlund, MD, PhD student
Philip Ekberg, Amanuens

The group works very closely with many clinicians in Gothenburg; at the departments of Neurosurgery, Pathology, Oncology and Paediatric Oncology.

Recent selected publications

  1. DNA methylation profiling improves routine diagnosis of paediatric central nervous system tumours: A prospective population-based study.
    Schepke E, Löfgren M, Pietsch T, Olsson Bontell T, Kling T, Wenger A, Ferreyra Vega S, Danielsson A, Dosa S, Holm S, Öberg A, Nyman P, Eliasson-Hofvander M, Sandström PE, Pfister SM, Lannering B, Sabel M, Carén H. Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2022 Oct;48(6):e12838. doi: 10.1111/nan.12838. Epub 2022 Aug 3.
  2. DNA methylation alterations across time and space in paediatric brain tumours.
    Wenger A, Ferreyra Vega S, Schepke E, Löfgren M, Olsson Bontell T, Tisell M, Nilsson D, Kling T and Carén H. Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2022 Jul 16;10(1):105. 
  3. Spatial heterogeneity in diffuse gliomas and meningiomas.
    Ferreyra Vega S, Wenger A, Olsson-Bontell T, Store Jakola A, Kling T, Carén H. Mod Pathol. 2022 Jun 14. doi: 10.1038/s41379-022-01113-8. 
  4. DNA methylation profiling for molecular classification of adult diffuse lower-grade gliomas.
    Ferreyra Vega S, Corell A, Olsson-Bontell T, Smits A, Store Jakola A* and Carén H. Clin Epigenetics. 2021 13:102. 
  5. DNA methylation-based age estimation in pediatric healthy tissues and brain tumors.
    Kling T, Wenger A, Carén HAging (Albany NY). 2020 Nov 9;12. doi: 10.18632/aging.202145
  6. Accumulation of DNA methylation alterations in paediatric glioma stem cells following fractionated dose irradiation.
    Danielsson A, Barreu K, Kling T, Tisell M and Carén HClin Epigenetics. 2020 Feb 11;12(1):26.
  7. Intra-Tumor DNA Methylation Heterogeneity in Glioblastoma; Implications for DNA Methylation-Based Classification.
    Wenger A, Ferreyra Vega A, Kling T, Olsson Bontell T, Jakola AS and Carén H. Neuro Oncol. 2019 May 6;21(5):616-627. 
  8. Stem Cell Cultures derived from Pediatric Brain Tumors accurately model the originating tumors.
    Wenger A, Larsson S, Danielsson A, Juul Elbaek K, Kettunen P, Tisell M, Sabel M, Lannering B, Nordborg C, Schepke E and Carén H. Oncotarget. 2017, 8(12):18626-18639. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.14826
  9. Determinants for Effective ALECSAT Immunotherapy Treatment on Autologous Patient-Derived Glioblastoma Stem Cells.
    Wenger A, Werlenius K, Hallner A, Thorén FB, Farahmand D, Tisell M, Smits A, Rydenhag B, Jakola AS, Carén H. Neoplasia. 2018 Jan;20(1):25-31. doi: 10.1016/j.neo.2017.10.006. Epub 2017 Dec 1.
  10. MethPed: A DNA Methylation Classifier tool for the Identification of Pediatric Brain Tumor Subtypes.
    Danielsson A, Nemes S, Tisell M, Lannering B, Nordborg C, Sabel M and Carén H. Clinical Epigenetics. 2015, 7:62

More group Helena Carén publications on PubMed

Helena Carén
Photo: Emelie Asplund

Contact information

Helena Carén

E-mail: Helena Carén
Phone: +46 (0)31 786 3838

Visiting address:
Sahlgrenska Center
for Cancer Research,
Medicinaregatan 1F
413 90 Gothenburg