About Us

The Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) is a part of EPFL’s School of life sciences. Its research groups investigate a spectrum of biological systems that are variously co-opted or disrupted during the development of cancer, as well as mechanisms that modulate cell homeostasis and organ development.

Research topics

Prominent amongst the research themes is the use of genetically engineered mouse models of human cancer, which are being employed to

  • elucidate genetic and epigenetic mechanisms by which tumours develop and progress to more aggressive states of malignancy,
  • reveal the complex interplay of mutant cancer cells with recruited and corrupted host cells in their collective tumour microenvironment;
  • identify heterotypic cell-cell interactions that are instrumental for malignant progression of tumours to lethal disease
  • engineering drugs that disrupt such interactions so as to improve cancer therapy.

Another theme involves investigation of resistance mechanisms that inevitably arise in response to cancer therapy, with the goal to discover means to circumvent them and produce more enduring therapeutic responses. This is pursued through innovative technologies and bioengineered systems, such as tumour-on-a-chip and organoid models, as well as genetic mouse models and cross-correlative analysis of clinical samples. Additional themes include signalling pathways that regulate aspects of embryogenesis and organogenesis, and mechanisms orchestrating the cell division cycle and the maintenance of genomic integrity during cell proliferation.

Strategic goals

ISREC’s strategic goals include expediting progress toward deeper understanding of the biology and genetics of cancer, leveraging new knowledge forthcoming to develop and evaluate impactful new mechanism-guided therapeutic strategies. Other goals are to contribute to the growing success of the School of life sciences as an intellectual community and to inspire, instruct, and train students at all levels of their career development.

Research groups and collaborations

The ISREC institute is directed by Elisa Oricchio, and currently consists of 13 core and 3 affiliated faculty members.

Beyond the institute itself, ISREC faculty members are broadly interactive and collaborative, with other institutes at EPFL, most notably the Institute of Bioengineering (IBI), and with the diverse components of the Swiss Cancer Center Leman (SCCL), including the Lausanne branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and the Department of Oncology at the University of Lausanne’s hospital and biomedical campus (CHUV), as well as the University of Geneva (UniGE) and its hospital (HUG).

The ISREC is prominently involved in the activities of the multi-institutional Swiss Cancer Center Leman (SCCL). EPFL’s cancer and bioengineering institutes have a major presence in the new AGORA translational cancer research building, which serves as a flagship of the SCCL.



Prof. Momo Bentires-Alj

Professor of Experimental Surgical Oncology at the Department for Biomedicine, University of Basel, Switzerland

Prof. Gabriele Bergers

Professor of Oncology at the University of Leuven, Group leader, Vlaams Instituut Voor Biotechnologie (VIB)-Center for Cancer Biology, Belgium

Prof. Rene Bernards

Professor of Molecular Carcinogenesis at Utrecht University and Head of Molecular Carcinogenesis, Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, Holland

Prof. Kristian Helin

CEO & President of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London; Professor in Epigenetics and Cancer, University of London, UK

Prof. Meritxell Huch

Director, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany

Prof. Dana Pe’er

Chair, Computational & Systems Biology Program, SKI; Scientific Director, Alan & Sandra Gerry Metastasis and Tumor Ecosystems Center; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA

Prof. Agnel Sfeir

PaineWebber Chair in Cancer Genetics, Professor and Member, Sloan Kettering Institute, MSKCC, New York, USA