Strategic Communication and Public Relations

Heidelberg - Toronto: Exchange Program for Clinician and Medical Scientists

The German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM) are joining forces as world leading cancer research centers and are happy to announce the start of their International Clinician and Medical Scientist Fellowship Program.

The exchange program for Clinician and Medical Scientists has been established to promote world-class, transatlantic professional training and education in the area of translational cancer research for emerging leaders in patient-oriented cancer research.

In a competitive selection process, both institutions have recruited their first program fellows who will soon start working on joint tandem research projects between laboratories of the DKFZ in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Robert Vanner

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre fellow, Dr. Robert Vanner began his Medical Oncology training in Toronto in July 2020 after completing his PhD research in the Department of Molecular Genetics and MD program at the University of Toronto. With the DKFZ-Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Clinician and Medical-Scientist Fellowship Robert will work on a joint project entitled "Clonal Hematopoiesis as a Determinant of Metastasis and Immunotherapy Response in Breast Cancer" under the co-supervision of Dr. John Dick at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Dr. Andreas Trumpp at the DKFZ. The project will investigate how clonal hematopoiesis, a process whereby a mutant hematopoietic stem cell disproportionately contributes to blood production, impacts breast cancer response to treatment and progression to metastasis. The proposed work offers the opportunity to assess if clonal hematopoiesis impacts the tumour microenvironment in ways that could favour metastasis such as by favoring immune evasion, or impact response to immunotherapy. The intent is to better understand mechanisms promoting breast cancer metastasis and identify means to prevent this disease's deadly progression.

"The DKFZ-PM Clinician and Medical-Scientist Fellowship Training Program will connect two world-leading institutions to answer exciting, impactful questions about cancer biology. This will provide the ideal bridge between clinical training and establishing my own research group and medical practice as a clinician scientist in Medical Oncology."



Kira Kornienko

German Cancer Research Center Fellow, Dr. Kira Kornienko, who will join from the Charité in Berlin, is a medical doctor specializing in Urooncology. She will be hosted in the Division of Cancer Epigenomics at the DKFZ and collaborate with PM's Functional Epigenomics Research Group on a joint project called PRO-SPeCT (PROstate cancer heterogeneity deconvolution through Single cell Profiling of Chromatin accessibility and Transcriptomic output). Generating novel insights in the progression of aggressive Prostate Cancer is a goal of this highly translational project, which could pave the way for the development of novel approaches to prevent, diagnose, stage and treat Prostate Cancer. Project results could potentially be translated back to the clinics. For example within new studies and treatment options, which will hopefully lead to an improvement in clinical prostate cancer care in the future.

"My interest in research was already awakened during my medical studies and I have consequently expanded my research skills while working on a variety of topics. Building on my clinical experience from Urooncology, I want to further complement my precision oncology portfolio by working on a unique prostate cancer research project. I am sure that taking advantage of the expertise and support of two of the most famous cancer research centers will help me to make the most of my time as a program fellow and beyond."

Both institutions consider the joint exchange program to develop into a transatlantic platform for professional oncology research training of its Clinician and Medical Scientist Fellows. In addition, the program will further advance the excellent long-term interactions between the participating centers and therefore directly contributes to future inter-institutional research collaborations.

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