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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
© dkfz.de

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.

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 Cancer 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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