Press and Public Relations

Hopp Children's Tumor Center at NCT Heidelberg ready to start

The Dietmar Hopp Foundation donates 20 million Euro

No. 47b | 23/11/2016

Heidelberg University Hospital and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have founded the Hopp-Kindertumorzentrum at the NCT* Heidelberg, in short: KiTZ, a tumor center for therapy and research in pediatric oncology and hematology. Their aim is to create new diagnostic and therapeutic options to help children with cancer more effectively. The Dietmar Hopp Foundation will support the project with 20 million Euros towards the construction of the new center, as SAP founder and patron Dietmar Hopp announced at a press conference on November 23.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Kulozik, Prof. Dr. Olaf Witt, Dietmar Hopp, Annika, Prof. Dr. Michael Baumann, Prof. Dr. Stefan Pfister, Prof. Dr. Guido Adler (v.l.n.r.)
© Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg

The news that their two-year-old daughter was suffering from leukemia came as a terrible blow for Annika Obieglo's family. But today, four years later, the family can breathe a sigh of relief as Annika is considered to be cured. Thanks to intensive therapy, her leukemia was pushed back completely. Receiving a cancer diagnosis presents affected children and their relatives with an unimaginable burden.

"The battle against cancer is an important motivation of my foundation work. The idea that my sons might develop cancer has always been unbearable for me, especially when I was a young father. And although our family are not affected, I want to help families whose children have to cope with cancer," said Dietmar Hopp. "I am moved by the fact that I can help to set up this highly specialized center".

The construction of the children's tumor center will cost around 40 million Euros in total. In addition to the Dietmar Hopp Foundation, other sponsors have already promised their support to the "Hopp Children's Tumor Center at NCT Heidelberg", also called "KiTZ". "We are grateful to everyone who has made it possible that with this financial foundation, we are now able to enter the construction planning phase," says Professor Dr. Guido Adler, Chairman of the Board and Chief Medical Director of the University Hospital. "About a quarter of the costs for the construction of the children's center are still not covered. But we are confident that we will be able to find more supporters, and we should be able to start building in 2017."

Targetetd therapies for children with cancer

At the KiTZ, clinic and research will be working together under one roof and help children affected by cancer more quickly and in more targeted ways. Professor Dr. Michael Baumann, Chairman and Scientific Director at DKFZ, explains: "Doctors and scientists from the University Hospital and the DKFZ are already cooperating in order to take better care of our cancer patients. At the KiTZ, we will soon be able to translate our scientific findings in pediatric oncology, now receiving great attention worldwide, into more tailored diagnostic and treatment procedures."

The KiTZ's cornerstone is comprehensive medical care for young patients. "In the KiTZ, children and adolescents with oncological and hematological disorders will receive individual personalized outpatient, inpatient and day-care - from diagnostics to therapy and aftercare," explains Professor Dr. Andreas Kulozik, Medical Director of the Clinic for Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and Immunology at the Heidelberg University Hospital. Kulozik also emphasizes another aspect of the KiTZ: Looking after the young patients' natural desire for movement and leisure activities. "It's important that life is not brought to a standstill during cancer treatment - especially when a child needs to activate all his reserves to defeat this illness, together with the doctors," says Kulozik.

In addition to the physical condition, the patients' mental well-being also has priority at the KiTZ. Spaces for physical activities and music therapy for distraction and recovery in-house as well as outside have been created. "We are currently refining the concept to meet the holistic demands of children with cancer," summarizes Kulozik. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the KiTZ, along with Professor Dr. Stefan Pfister and Professor Dr. Olaf Witt. Witt is head of the section "Pediatric Brain Tumors and Individualized Pediatric Oncology" (ZIPO) at the Clinic for Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and Immunology as well as the Clinical Cooperation Unit "Pediatric Oncology" at the DKFZ. Pfister is Head of the Department "Pediatric Neurooncology" at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Senior Physician at the Heidelberg University Hospital.

Clinical research for better diagnosis and treatment strategies

KiTZ's second important foothold is research. "In order to increase the healing potential of children with cancer, it is important to better understand the molecular causes of the disease in each individual patient and to derive from this understanding specific diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for the patient," says Witt. "At the KiTZ, we are able to drive innovative clinical trials even further so that new therapies can reach our patients more quickly." Even though nearly 80 percent of children with cancer are now treated successfully, the healing rates have been stagnating for many years. Cancer is still the second most common cause of death among children and adolescents under 18 years of age in Germany. "In pediatric oncology we are still missing medical concepts specifically tailored to young patients," explains Pfister. "To change this, we want to further extend pre-clinical research with about 20 research groups, looking for new keys for the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases." And he adds: "To help children with cancer, for whom there have been no suitable therapies so far, is the goal that drives us all."

* The NCT was founded in Heidelberg in 2004 as the first "Comprehensive Cancer Center" in Germany in cooperation with the German Cancer Research Center and Heidelberg University Hospital.

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,000 scientists investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and endeavor to find new strategies to prevent people from getting cancer. They develop novel approaches to make tumor diagnosis more precise and treatment of cancer patients more successful. The staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) offers information about the widespread disease of cancer for patients, their families, and the general public. Jointly with Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ has established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of six German Centers for Health Research, DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partnering sites. Combining excellent university hospitals with high-profile research at a Helmholtz Center is an important contribution to improving the chances of cancer patients. DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers, with ninety percent of its funding coming from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the remaining ten percent from the State of Baden-Württemberg.

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