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Annual Reception at the DKFZ

No. 07c4 | 13/02/2015 | by Sel

On Thursday, February 12, 2015, the Management Board of the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) invited friends and supporters from politics, industry and science, as well as employees, to its Annual Reception. About 400 invited guests enjoyed an inspiring evening accompanied by music performed by the Karlsruhe Grand Celli Quartet. The highlight of the evening was a speech by Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Prof. Otmar Wiestler, Prof. Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Prof. Harald zur Hausen, Prof. Josef Puchta (from left to right)

In his welcome address, DKFZ Chairman and Scientific Director Professor Otmar D. Wiestler first reflected on the prior anniversary year of the Center, which was celebrated under the motto “50 Years of Research For A Life Without Cancer.” He thanked the many visitors and honorary guests, including high-ranking individuals from the spheres of science, politics and society, who had visited the Center in 2014 and had delivered congratulatory messages and gifts to the DKFZ. Even Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the DKFZ in April of last year and was impressed by the excellent scientific achievements of this “jewel in Germany’s research landscape.”

Wiestler noted that the Chancellor’s praise for the DKFZ has been rightfully confirmed, among other things, by a host of high-end publications and prestigious awards earned by DKFZ scientists in 2014. He added: “The Nobel Prize for Stefan Hell was a particularly wonderful birthday present.” Stefan Hell, a Max Planck Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, has also been leading a department at the DKFZ for 10 years. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing high-resolution fluorescence microscopy last year.

“At the DKFZ, we will stay committed to achieving ‘a life without cancer’,” said Wiestler. He continued that important steps were made last year toward this ambitious aim. The German government and the states of Baden-Württemberg and Saxony have agreed to apportion substantial funding toward the expansion, in both size and scope, of the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, and for the establishment of the NCT partner site in Dresden. “This will enable us to achieve our main goal of bringing individualized therapy to each patient.”

The NCT, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last year, is a collaboration of the DKFZ, Heidelberg University Hospital, and German Cancer Aid (Deutsche Krebshilfe). It also served as a model for the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), which was founded in 2012.The Consortium unites institutes from seven partner sites across Germany, which are assembled around a core center at DKFZ. “This important project also gained momentum in 2014 and will help us advance in our efforts to translate our findings from [basic] science into successful treatment strategies against cancer.” Finally, Wiestler also looked to his own personal future. In Fall 2014, he was elected to become the next President of the Helmholtz Association and his term of office there will subsequently start in September 2015. “One should always leave while things are best,” he said with a smile to explain this personal decision.

The 400 invited guests from science, politics, industry and the media were subsequently riveted by a speech from CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer. Professor Heuer presented fascinating insights into the fundamental physical research being performed at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which is based near Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Its research covers a broad array of subjects, from minute elementary particles to the infinitely large universe. In his lecture entitled “The Higgs boson and the early universe,” Heuer described the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the so-called “god particle.” Forty-eight years ago, theoretical physicists Peter W. Higgs and François Englert had predicted the existence of this particle as the only possible explanation for the mass of things. In July 2012, CERN researchers were indeed able to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, or Higgs particle, through an experiment in the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator 27 kilometers in diameter. “This should be of interest to you,” Heuer said. “Without the Higgs particle, you wouldn't be sitting here.” However, he continued that the Higgs particle only describes five percent of the universe. “Ninety-five percent of the universe consists of dark matter and we do not know what this is,” Heuer explained, thus also describing one of the major tasks that the approximately 3,000 employees at CERN plan to address in the future.

Heuer sees links between cancer research and the physical sciences in the use of heavy particles in radiation therapy for cancer patients and positron emission tomography in cancer diagnostics. He also sees such links in the generation of giant data sets by both the detectors in Geneva and through the molecular analysis of genetic information from cancer cells. “This is an area where we are sure to collaborate in the future, both in the storage and in the processing of data,” said Heuer.

Following in the footsteps of entrepreneur and consultant Roland Berger, former German President Roman Herzog, former Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, and former Deutsche Bank AG board member Dr. Michael Endres, Rolf-Dieter Heuer continued the tradition of attendance by high-profile guest speakers at the Annual Reception of the DKFZ. 

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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