Strategic Communication and Public Relations

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for John Mendelsohn

No. 51 | 15/10/2013 | by Koh

Following a nomination by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres has distinguished U.S. cancer researcher Prof. Dr. John Mendelsohn with the Helmholtz International Fellow Award. The award gives Dr. Mendelsohn the opportunity to pursue a research visit at DKFZ and other Helmholtz research centers to intensify relations.

Prof. Otmar Wiestler (left), Chairman and Scientific Director Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, and Prof. John Mendelsohn

In the course of his career, John Mendelsohn has led three major cancer centers. Most recently, from 1996 to 2011, he headed the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. During his tenure as president, he brought the institute to a newer level of international excellence both in research and patient care and doubled its activities and capacity.

Alongside his achievements as a science manager, Mendelsohn accomplished breakthroughs as a cancer researcher and is a pioneer of targeted anticancer drugs. In the 1980s, he developed an antibody against the receptor for epithelial growth factor (EGF receptor), a cell surface molecule that promotes growth in many cancer cells by transmitting signals telling them to divide. The antibody prevents the transmission of these signals into the cell’s interior, slowing down uncontrolled cell growth. The antibody has been approved as a drug since 2004, initially in the treatment of colon cancer, and more recently for the treatment of cancers of the head and neck.

John Mendelsohn is a pioneer in the field of personalized cancer therapy. He unites experience in clinical and laboratory research with that of a leader of a large research institution. Thanks to an initiative by Prof. Otmar Wiestler, DKFZ has been a “sister institution” of the MD Anderson Cancer Center since 2008. As an advisor for the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, Mendelsohn’s service has been of great value to both the DKFZ and the Helmholtz Association.

As part of the award, Mendelsohn has made research visits to the DKFZ and two other sites of the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research: the Charité Comprehensive Cancer Center in Berlin and OncoRay, DKFZ’s partner at the National Center for Radiation Research in Oncology in Dresden. The award includes a budget of €20,000.

Having concluded his successful presidency at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Mendelsohn returned to research. In 2011, he became vice director of the newly founded Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy in Houston.

Cooperation with the best researchers around the world is a key objective of the international activities of DKFZ and the Helmholtz Association. The Helmholtz International Fellow Award was established to this end; it targets outstanding senior scientists and research managers who are based outside Germany and have excelled in fields relevant to the Helmholtz Association.

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany. More than 1,300 scientists at the DKFZ investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and search for new strategies to prevent people from developing cancer. They are 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 all questions on cancer.

Jointly with partners from the university hospitals, the DKFZ operates the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg and Dresden, and the Hopp Children's Tumour Center KiTZ in Heidelberg. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of the six German Centers for Health Research, the DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partner locations. NCT and DKTK sites combine excellent university medicine with the high-profile research of the DKFZ. They contribute to the endeavor of transferring promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improving the chances of cancer patients.

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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