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Sven Diederichs receives DGVS young investigator award in the field of liver cancer

No. 41c2 | 22/09/2014

The German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (DGVS), supported by Bayer Health Care, presented its 2014 young investigator award in the field of hepatocellular carcinoma research to Sven Diederichs. Dr. Diederichs, a molecular biologist at the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) and the Institute of Pathology of Heidelberg University Hospital, has received the award in recognition of his outstanding scientific achievements in the field of liver cancer research.

Dr. Sven Diederichs
© dkfz.de

Dr. Sven Diederichs and his team are investigating the molecular mechanisms of the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. The scientists are particularly focusing on so-called non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). These are transcripts of the human genetic material that, unlike the normal genes of the human genome, do not code for proteins. This class of molecules, which represents the vast majority of the human DNA, has not been under close investigation until recently.

Diederich’s group has been focusing on the role that is played by “long non-coding RNAs” (ncRNAs) in the onset of cancer. In a first step, the researchers analyzed the expression of thousands of ncRNAs in various types of tumor including liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). They identified molecules that differ in the levels of expression found in tumor cells from that in healthy liver tissue. In a next step, the researchers determined the cellular and molecular functions of the deregulated RNA molecules. To this end, they selectively turned off the molecules in the living cells and observed the functions that were lost or added as a result.

In hepatocelluar carcinoma, the researchers studied the interactions of one of these ncRNA with an RNA binding protein. They discovered that both partners not only regulate each other but that they are also important for the survival of liver cancer cells. The scientists observed in various model systems that turning off the ncRNA or its interaction partner led to the demise of tumor cells. Therefore, both molecules are potential new targets in treating hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the most frequent cancer of the liver.

The €10,000 award was presented on September 19, 2004, at the annual conference of the DGVS in Leipzig.

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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