Paraneoplastic Neurological Syndromes (PNS) research group

Purkinje neuron

Research group for Paraneoplastic Neurological Syndromes (PNS)

Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system are a group of rare disorders that develop in some people who have cancer. PNS occur when cancer-fighting agents of the immune system also attack parts of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves or muscle and cause neurodegeneration. We are interested in the most common type of PNS, Paraneoplastic Cerebellar Degeneration (PCD).

PCD is an autoimmune model for neurodegeneration and associated with onconeuronal Yo autoantibodies which are present both in serum and cerebrospinal fluid and react with both cancer cells and Purkinje neurons of the cerebellum. In ovarian or breast cancer patients Yo autoantibodies can cause neuronal dysfunction and Purkinje neuron death by binding to cerebellar degeneration-related antigens CDR2 and CDR2Like. Today’s therapy is to remove the tumor to prevent further neuronal damage but there is no treatment available to compensate the induced neurodegeneration.

Our aim is to develop a neuroprotective therapy by investigating the molecular mechanisms inducing neurodegeneration. In the past years we developed two artificial PCD ex-vivo systems where we can visualize biochemical cascades before and after Yo autoantibody intake in the targeted Purkinje neurons of the cerebellum.

Figure: A 3D reconstruction of green fluorescent Purkinje neurons in a cerebellar section, imaged with a multiphoton microscope. Purkinje neurons are the main focus of our research since these neurons are affected in Paraneoplastic Cerebellar Degeneration (PCD).

Group members:

Christian Vedeler, Prof MD PhD (leader)

ScD Manja Schubert, Postdoc Maria Alme, Postdoc Cecilie Totland, PhD student Margrethe Raspotnig, PhD student Torbjørn Kråkenes, Staff Engineer Mette Haugen and Staff Engineer Kibret Mazengia.

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Do you want to have your master project done in our lab? Please contact us as we are continously looking for master students.


The group was evaluated as “very good” by the Norwegian Research Council in 2011, and was part of the Helse Vest Research Prize in 2012 and the University of Bergen Research Prize in 2013.