What we investigate

Our research focuses on the understanding of mechanisms that drive progression of skin cancer. We are particularly interested in cancer cell plasticity and associated rearrangement of the tumor microenvironment involved in spontaneous and/or therapy-induced progression of keratinocytic carcinomas.

keratinocytic carcinomas, plasticity, tumor microenvironment, resistance to therapy

RNA FISH staining for <em>INHBA</em> (red) and <em>FN1</em> (green) illustrating associated morphological progression and reprogramming in cancer cells and surrounding microenvironment in basal cell carcinoma.
RNA FISH staining for INHBA (red) and FN1 (green) illustrating associated morphological progression and reprogramming in cancer cells and surrounding microenvironment in basal cell carcinoma.
Our research in more detail

Our research focuses on how tumor-stroma interactions drive skin cancer progression.

In infiltrative basal cell carcinoma (BCC), we identified TGFβ-induced reprogramming of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), driving cancer cell migration through expression of Fibronectin. Consistently, we showed that FAK inhibitors disrupt cancer cell-CAF interactions and efficiently reverse infiltrative progression in BCC. More recently, using a combined computational approach, we deciphered with unprecedented resolution the cellular and molecular governors of the invasive niche, in particular Activin A-mediated, reciprocal transcriptional reprogramming in cancer cells and surrounding CAFs. We further found that matrix-remodeling CAF trigger immunosuppressive polarization of tumor-associated macrophages and mediate resistance to immunotherapy in various skin cancers.

With this and other research projects, we contribute to SKINTEGRITY.CH with the aim to improve the mechanistic understanding of skin cancer progression as well as its treatment in the clinic.

PD Dr. François Kuonen

PD Dr. François Kuonen
University of Lausanne & Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV)
Service de dermatologie et véneréologie
Avenue de Beaumont 29
1011 Lausanne

Email   Website

Selected publications

SKINTEGRITY.CH Principal Investigators are in bold:

  • Pich-Bavastro C, Yerly L, Di Domizio J, Tissot-Renaud S, Gilliet MKuonen F* (2023). Activin A-mediated polarization of cancer-associated fibroblasts and macrophages confers resistance to checkpoint immunotherapy in skin cancer. Clin Cancer Res, 16, 0219
  • Yerly L, Pich-Bavastro C, Di Domizio J, Wyss T, Tissot-Renaud S, Cangkrama M, Gilliet M, Werner S, Kuonen F* (2022). Integrated multiomics reveals cellular and molecular interactions governing the invasive niche of basal cell carcinoma. Nat Commun, 13, 4897
  • Kuonen F*, Li NY, Haensel D, Patel T, Gaddam S, Yerly L, Rieger K, Aasi S, Oro AE* (2021). c-FOS drives reversible basal to squamous cell carcinoma transition. Cell Rep, 37, 109774
  • Kuonen F*, Surbeck I, Sarin KY, Dontenwill M, Ruegg C, Gilliet M, Oro AE, Gaide O (2018). TGFβ, fibronectin and integrin α5β1 promote invasion in basal cell carcinoma. J Invest Dermatol, 138, 2432

* Corresponding author