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. Fundamentally, the goal of our Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratory is to develop new treatments for chronic lung diseases, with a focus on lung cancer.

Fundamentally, the goal of our Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratory is to develop new treatments for chronic lung diseases, with a focus on lung cancer. Under the direction of Prof. Ralph Schmid, MD, our research groups focus on stem cell research in the context of lung regeneration and lung cancer.


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.

Team of the Thoracic Surgery Laboratory under the direction of Prof. Dr. med. Dr. h.c. mult. Ralph Alexander Schmid. Foto: Pascal Gugler

The research team is headed by Prof. Ralph Alexander Schmid. Prof. Ren-Wang Peng and PD Dr. Thomas Michael Marti function as principal investigators of two synergistically interacting research groups, each with an individual research focus.

General Aim

The Peng Research Group aims to decipher the molecular mechanisms driving tumor development, progression, and resistance to standard clinical cancer therapies in lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), with the goal of uncovering therapeutically exploitable vulnerabilities - the ‘Achilles heel’ - of therapy-naïve and refractory cancer cells to develop innovative precision medicine strategies for the treatment of thoracic tumors.

Projects of Peng Group

Our research projects aimed at a better understanding of lung cancer, MPM development, and drug resistance are funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Swiss Cancer Research Foundation and the Swiss Cancer League as well as the Cancer League of the Canton of Bern. Over the past decade, we have discovered several key events in the oncogenic process of lung cancer and MPM pathogenesis and progression, with several original scientific findings of translational importance being investigated under clinical conditions.

Current Projects

  • Deciphering therapeutic resistance in KRAS-mutant lung cancer.
  • Uncovering new therapeutic rationales through integrative molecular characterization of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).
  • Towards a precision medicine approach for FGFR1-amplified lung cancer.
  • Ferroptosis as an avenue to target lung cancer and MPM.
Prof. Ren-Wang Peng, Foto: Pascal Gugler
  • Prof. Ren-Wang Peng (PhD, group leader)
  • Dr. Yanyun Gao (PhD, postdoctoral fellow)
  • Dr. Zhang Yang (MD & PhD, postdoctoral fellow)
  • Liang Zhao (PhD student)
  • Wenjuan Ning (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 in malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Projects of Marti Group

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.

PD Thomas Michael Marti, Foto: Pascal Gugler
  • Thomas Michael Marti (PD Dr, group leader)
  • Haibin Deng (PhD student)
  • Huixiang Ge (PhD student)
  • Darya Karatkevich (PhD student)
  • Christelle Dubey (laboratory technician)
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