Home » Student Portraits » Student Portrait #1: Charline Sommer

Student Portrait #1: Charline Sommer

Many enthusiastic PhD candidates are working on imSAVAR. With their research, they contribute to the success of the project. We are happy to feature a first portrait of PhD student Charline and her great work in the field of immunomodulatory drugs. 

Hi, my name is Charline Sommer and I am a PhD student working at Fraunhofer ITEM in Hanover, Germany.

Since starting my education in biochemistry I was always passionate about understanding why people suffer from certain diseases. The question which factors could reduce symptoms of these diseases and therefore help to improve the quality of life of patients led me through diverse research areas including neurology, infection biology, and, currently, immunology.

I was excited to start my PhD in 2020 at Fraunhofer ITEM with a focus on side effects of drugs which influence the immune system. The use of these immunomodulatory drugs is a promising field not only in oncology, but also for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. One of the first immunomodulatory therapies approved for antitumor therapy in the 1990s was based on a protein called interleukin‑2 (IL-2). However, severe side effects e.g. on the skin and lung occurred during the treatment which soon led to a drawback of IL-2. To maximise therapeutic effects without causing toxicity in future IL-2-based therapies, a better understanding of biological mechanisms leading to side effects is of high importance. Unfortunately, these mechanisms are still not well understood and therefore need further investigation.

Within the imSAVAR consortium, we aim to investigate mechanisms of side effects during IL-2 therapy such as liver or lung toxicity, side effects on vasculature or skin rash. For this purpose, we are closely working together with experts from Paul-Ehrlich-Institute, Fraunhofer ITMP and ITEM, University of Lund, Novartis, Roche and many more. Specifically, within my PhD project at Fraunhofer ITEM, we aim to understand immune-related mechanisms of IL-2-induced skin rash and lung toxicity. We use innovative human cell and tissue models such as native human lung and skin tissue to characterise complex immune cell responses towards IL-2. The results obtained within this project shall help to optimise future IL-2-based therapies in order to maximise therapeutic effects without causing toxicities.

I am eager to be part of this meaningful project and hope to contribute to improve safety and efficacy of this drug!