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Helmholtz PhD Award for Natalie Jäger

No. 41c | 19/09/2014

Natalie Jäger has received a €5000 award from the Helmholtz Association for her PhD thesis, which she finished with honors this year at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). In a study of genetic changes in childhood brain cancer, Dr. Jäger discovered for the first time that mutations in one of the two X chromosomes occur at abnormally high rates in cancer.

Natalie Jäger

In a collaborative project with international partners, Natalie Jäger discovered for the first time that mutations happen with particularly high frequency in one of the X chromosomes of female cancer patients, the chromosome responsible for determining sex. In many cases of cancer, this chromosome exhibited between two to four times as many mutations as other chromosomes. Every cell in a female has two copies of the X chromosome; interestingly, the rate was not the same in the two copies. From embryonic development onwards, one of the copies is inactivated in each cell. The higher mutation rate exclusively affects the inactive copy.

The findings, published in the journal “Cell”, should help scientists understand how mutations accumulate in damaged cells and eventually lead to the development of cancer.

Natalie Jäger, who pursued research for her PhD thesis at the DKFZ in the Division of Theoretical Bioinformatics headed by Roland Eils, is being distinguished for her extraordinary achievements with the Helmholtz PhD Award in health research. The Helmholtz Association awards this prize with the aim of supporting talented young researchers early on in order, both to recognize their prior achievements and to offer an incentive for them to follow a career in research. Since February, Dr. Jäger has been carrying out research as a post-doc at Stanford University, U.S.A.

The Helmholtz Association annually awards €5000 prizes in each of its six research areas. Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka and Jürgen Mlynek, President of the Helmholtz Association, presented the awards at the Helmholtz Annual Conference on September 18, 2014.

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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