Erkek Lab. on (Epi)genomics of Cancer


Recent large-scale genomic studies which have been performed to understand the changes in genomic landscape in disease context, especially the ones carried out within the frame of international consortia for the molecular characterization of cancer provided very important hints for the deregulated genes/pathways in cancer. Among those, one clear theme emerging was the mutation of the genes involved in chromatin regulation. 25%-30% of the cancer driver mutations affect chromatin modifier genes, emphasizing the importance of studying chromatin regulation in disease context. In the recent years, studies performed within ENCODE and Roadmap consortia investigated the chromatin landscape in diverse cell and tissue types mainly via mapping different histone modifications. Results of these studies provided fundamental insights about how gene regulatory networks can be discovered with the use of chromatin state mappings. Nevertheless, these studies were largely restricted to normal tissue and cell types. Number of studies characterizing chromatin regulation on disease-basis is currently very limited and needs to be further extended and developed.

Research Interests

We are mainly interested in understanding how deregulation of chromatin contributes to the differential gene regulation and appearance of novel regulatory networks in cancer with a special focus in bladder cancer. Roughly 80% of bladder cancer patients are mutant for at least one gene involved in chromatin regulation, emphasizing the investigation of chromatin-level misregulation in this cancer. To address our research questions, we utilize computational biology approaches which mainly include integrative analysis of the genomic data generated for cancer tissue. In addition, we are very interested in generating new epigenomic data with full integration with genomic and transcriptomic data, and functional characterization of chromatin modifier mutations. As transcription factors are the master regulators of the genome, one of our key priorities is to identify transcriptional factors and their interacting partners responsible for the cancer regulatory networks using proteomic approaches. Our ultimate aim is to discover novel molecular mechanisms important for cancer development, which can be used to develop diagnostic markers or targeted therapeutic tools.

Our major research questions and used material to investigate the epigenetic mechanisms regulating bladder cancer

Group Members

Erkek Lab. on (Epi)genomics of Cancer

Research Group Leader

+90 232 299 41 00 (5171)
+9 0 232 299 41 67

Gülden ÖZDEN YILMAZ Researcher

Muhammet MEMON PhD Student

Gizem ÖZGÜN PhD Student

Perihan Yağmur GÜNERİ MSc Student

Aleyna ERAY MSc Student

Selected Publications

Erkek S, Johann PD, Finetti MA, Drosos Y, Chou HC, Zapatka M, Sturm D, Jones DTW, Korshunov A, Rhyzova M, Wolf S, Mallm JP, Beck K, Witt O, Kulozik AE, Frühwald MC, Northcott PA, Korbel JO, Lichter P, Eils R, Gajjar A, Roberts CWM, Williamson D, Hasselblatt M, Chavez L, Pfister SM, Kool M. Comprehensive analysis of chromatin states in atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor identifies diverging roles for SWI/SNF and Polycomb in gene regulation . Cancer Cell. 2019 January ; 35 (1) : 95-110. doi:10.1016/j.ccell.2018.11.014.

Isabel TegederKatharina ThielSerap ErkekPascal D. JohannJohannes BerlandiVenu ThatikondaMichael C. FrühwaldMarcel KoolAstrid JeibmannMartin Hasselblatt. Functional relevance of genes predicted to be affected by epigenetic alterations in atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors. Journal of Neuro-Oncology. 2018 ; 141 (1) : 43-55.

Merk DJ, Ohli J, Merk ND, Thatikonda V, Morrissy S, Schoof M, Schmid SN, Harrison L, Filser S, Ahlfeld J, Erkek S, Raithatha K, Andreska T, Weißhaar M, Launspach M, Neumann JE, Shakarami M, Plenker D, Marra MA, Li Y, Mungall AJ, Moore RA, Ma Y, Jones SJM, Lutz B, Ertl-Wagner B, Rossi A, Wagener R, Siebert R, Jung A, Eberhart CG, Lach B, Sendtner M, Pfister SM, Taylor MD, Chavez L, Kool M, Schüller U. Opposing Effects of CREBBP Mutations Govern the Phenotype of Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome and Adult SHH Medulloblastoma. Developmental Cell. 2018 March ; 44 (6) : 709-724. doi:10.1016/j.devcel.2018.02.012.

Weischenfeldt J, Dubash T, Drainas AP, Mardin BR, Chen Y, Stütz AM, Waszak SM, Bosco G, Halvorsen AR, Raeder B, Efthymiopoulos T, Erkek S, Siegl C, Brenner H, Brustugun OT, Dieter SM, Northcott PA, Petersen I, Pfister SM, Schneider M, Solberg SK, Thunissen E, Weichert W, Zichner T, Thomas R, Peifer M, Helland A, Ball CR, Jechlinger M, Sotillo R, Glimm H, Korbel JO. Pan-cancer analysis of somatic copy-number alterations implicates IRS4 and IGF2 in enhancer hijacking. Nature Genetics. 2018 January ; 49 (1) : 65-74. doi:10.1038/ng.3722.

Susanne N. Gröbner, Barbara C. Worst[…]Stefan M. Pfister. The landscape of genomic alterations across childhood cancers. Nature. 2018 March ; 555 (7696) : 321-327. doi:10.1038/nature25480.

. Therapeutic targeting of ependymoma as informed by oncogenic enhancer profiling. Nature. 2018 January ; 553 (7686) : 101-105. doi:10.1038/nature25169.

Paul A. Northcott, Ivo Buchhalter[…]Peter Lichter. The whole-genome landscape of medulloblastoma subtypes. Nature. 2017 July ; 547 : 311-317.

Total : 7


  • Young Scientist (BAGEP) Award by Science Academy, 2019
  • Loreal UNESCO For Women in Science National Fellowship by L'Oréal UNESCO, 2019
  • Installation Grant by EMBO, 2018
  • 2232 Yurda Dönüş Araştırmacı Dolaşım Programı by TUBITAK, 2017

Academic Memberships

  • Tıp Bilişim Derneği, 2018
  • International Bladder Cancer Network, 2019


Erkek Lab. on (Epi)genomics of Cancer

Research Group Leader

+90 232 299 41 00 (5171)
+9 0 232 299 41 67