Center for Preclinical Research

Center for Preclinical Research

Prof. Dr. Kurt Reifenberg


Cancer represents a devastating disease. The mission of the DKFZ is research on the molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis and the improvement and development of cancer therapies. Scientists at the DKFZ work whenever possible with cell cultures or try to answer scientific questions by computer simulation (Replacement). In many cases, due to the complexity of tumorigenesis the significance of alternative in vitro or in silico systems is limited so that animal experiments are indispensable. These are restricted to the necessary dimension (Reduction); animals are treated with respect and with the most advanced techniques (Refinement). For their experiments, DKFZ scientists preferably use rodents, in rare cases also amphibians. To mimic the development of a distinct cancer in humans, cancer researchers employ various tumor models; genetically manipulated mice with a tissue-specific gain or loss of one or several genes serve to evaluate the functional role of such genetic factors in cancer development.
To some extent, the mechanisms of tumor development are analysed in mice that have been treated with carcinogenic agents. To study the characteristics of human tumor cells, mice with a compromised immune system are often used, since they tolerate the transplantation of cells from other species and allow their growth.

The Staff of the DKFZ Center for Preclinical Research supports scientists who are in need of animal organs or who experiment with animals that were bred in-house or selectively purchased. A team of clinical veterinarians and biologists advises and assists researchers in the design and realization of their experiments. Managers of the ZTL train technicians and caretakers and provide technical courses for scientific personnel. By these means, it is assured that all animals are kept according to national and international animal protection laws. In addition, the welfare of the animals is ensured by maintaining them under the highest level of hygiene. In the Laboratory of Microbiological Diagnostics, the health status of the animals is regularly checked. The Transgenic Service supports scientists at DKFZ in the generation of genetically modified mouse lines that serve for investigation of distinct human tumor diseases. In the Cryopreservation Unit, the most important mouse strains are preserved for further studies by collecting spermatozoa or early-stage embryos from mutant mice and subsequent freezing in liquid nitrogen. In addition, a database of all mouse mutants available in-house is provided. The Tumor Models Unit realizes cancer studies in experimental animals by application of carcinogenic agents and by transplantation of tumor cells into immune-deficient mice. Moreover, diet and therapy studies are carried out.


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The DKFZ-ZMBH-Alliance is a strategic alliance between the Research Program Cell and Tumor Biology and the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University.

Research Results

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Junior Research Groups

At German Cancer Research Center the following Junior Research Groups have been established.

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