Cancer entities with marked cellular heterogeneity include breast cancer (triple-negative and luminal-B mammary carcinoma), microsatellite-stable colorectal carcinoma and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Their tremendous cellular and associated molecular heterogeneity allows these tumors to develop metastases and escape current therapies.

In order to develop better treatment options, a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms is needed. These are now being closely examined in the multi-disciplinary SATURN³ project using beyond-state-of-the-art technologies studying patient’s tumor cells at single cell resolution and during the course of the disease.

Project duration

5 years

Grant amount

18 million €


17 institutions


1st July 2022


The overall goal of the SATURN³ consortium is to combine unique expertise and most current technologies from basic, translational and clinical research to monitor and treat dynamic intratumor heterogeneity (ITH) in patients.

  • Investigate the development of tumor heterogeneity in patients through longitudinal tumor profiling
  • Implement standardized single-cell/spatial omics and imaging workflows combined with AI-driven analytics to dissect and characterize intratumor heterogeneity (ITH) in human tumors
  • Explore the underlying mechanism generating tumor heterogeneity
  • Identify converging principles of intratumor heterogeneity (ITH) within and across entities
  • Employ causal and mechanistic modelling to derive candidate hypothesis of ITH associated resistance mechanisms mediated by cellular plasticity, stromal and immune microenvironment as well as many other biological principles.
  • This is achieved partly by setting-up mechanistic experiments using patient derived organoids and xenografts and functional CRISPR mediated gene editing screens as well as single cell tracing technologies
  • Validation and translation towards personalized treatment concepts
  • Direct involvement of the patient perspective in the research work


  • Development of better therapeutic interventions for three frequent and hard-to-treat cancer types (breast cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer)
  • Strategies to overcome treatment resistance and metastasis, resulting in a gain in quality-adjusted life years for patients.
  • Improved understanding of ITH through longitudinal and spatially annotated (primary tumor, metastases) sampling of cancer tissue and blood from individual cases with the most advanced methodological approaches
  • Generate substantial knowledge on how to target ITH and use this knowledge to design innovative clinical trials.


  • University Hospital Essen
    Essen, Germany
  • University Medical Center Göttingen
    Goettingen, Germany
  • University Hospital of Giessen and Marburg
    Marburg, Germany
  • University Hospital Heidelberg
    Heidelberg, Germany
  • German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)
    Heidelberg, Germany
  • European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)
    Heidelberg, Germany
  • HI-STEM gGmbH
    Heidelberg, Germany
  • University Hospital Cologne
    Cologne, Germany
  • University Hospital Frankfurt am Main
    Frankfurt, Germany
  • Georg-Speyer-Haus
    Frankfurt, Germany
  • German Breast Group, GBG Forschungs GmbH
    Neu-Isenburg, Germany
  • University Hospital Augsburg
    Augsburg, Germany
  • University Hospital Freiburg
    Freiburg, Germany
  • University Hospital Regensburg
    Regensburg, Germany
  • concentris research management gmbh (concentris)
    Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany
  • Technical University of Munich
    Munich, Germany
  • University Hospital of Munich (LMU)
    Munich, Germany
  • Rechts der Isar Hospital, Technical University of Munich
    Munich, Germany


Scientific Coordinator:

West German Cancer Center, University Hospital Essen
Prof. Dr. Jens Siveke
Hufelandstraße 55
45147 Essen, Germany

Scientific Co-Coordinator:

German Cancer Research Center and HI-STEM gGmbH
Prof. Dr. Andreas Trumpp
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg, Germany

Scientific Co-Coordinator:

Technical University Munich
Prof. Dr. Wilko Weichert
Trogerstrasse 18
81675 München, Germany

Project Management:

concentris research management gmbh (concentris)
82256 Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)8141 6252 8570