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European Research Council Awards a €1.5 Million Grant to DKFZ Scientist

No. 43 | 27/07/2010 | by (Sab/Sel)

The European Research Council will support Dr. Aurelio Teleman and his working group 'Signal Transduction in Cancer and Metabolism' with a €1.5 million grant. The money is provided as a Starting Grant by the Research Council to support the young scientist in his study of genes regulating cell growth. The goal of the funded project is to study the TOR gene, which is substantial in regulating cell growth, and its role in cancer. "We are very honored, of course, to be awarded the renowned ERC Starting Grant," says Teleman. "We will use the money to create new positions for doctoral students in our lab and offer young researchers excellent conditions for their research."

Dr. Aurelio Teleman

A key characteristic of cancer is rapid and uncontrolled cell growth. The point where an individual cell ceases to grow depends on the signals it gets from other cells surrounding it. The biological mechanisms of this cell-to-cell communication are largely unknown. In order to understand how cancer develops we first need to understand processes in healthy tissue. Scientists in Teleman’s department are working with the fruit fly Drosophila, because regulation of cell growth is very similar in flies and in man. In addition, there are many genetic tools to obtain rapid results in the study of gene functions. “We’re trying to transfer our findings about cell growth in Drosophila to the human system,” says Teleman. “First we will turn off individual genes in the fly and observe the effects. Then we will compare the results with those of human tissue cultures.”

The goal of the ERC funded project is to study the TOR gene and its role in cancer. TOR is involved in the formation of proteins and fatty acids which are essential for cell growth. If TOR is active, cells will grow. If it is inactive, cell growth will cease, too. Almost all human tumors have a hyperactive variant of TOR. Hence, the genes regulating TOR are very likely to play an important role in the onset of cancer.

Dr. Aurelio Teleman was born in 1976 in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied biochemistry at Harvard University. Following his doctoral thesis, which he finished at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, and a post-doctoral position, he started working as a junior research group leader at DKFZ in 2007.

The ERC Starting Independent Researcher Grant supports young researchers in the early stages of their career. ERC supports scientists in building their own working groups in Europe. Funds between 1.5 and two million euros are provided over a five-year period.

A picture for this press release is available on the Internet at:

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 8 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


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