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ERC Starting Grant for Stefan Gröschel

No. 58 | 14/12/2015 | by Koh

The European Research Council (ERC) awards “Starting Grants” to support excellent young scientists who are starting an independent science career. Stefan Gröschel, a medical researcher from the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, has now received the prestigious grant in the present round of proposals. Gröschel investigates the abnormally high activity of an important cancer-promoting gene. The ultimate goal of his research is to find new agents to restrain the underlying genetic and epigenetic mechanisms.

Stefan Gröschel

The oncogene EVI1 is a driver in a number of cancers including, in particular, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and ovarian cancer as well as many cases of cancer of the breast, gut and lungs. The gene product of EVI1 has a variety of tasks in the cell: It influences the activity of other genes and is involved in a number of ways in the packaging of the hereditary material. Stefan Gröschel is therefore searching for possibilities to restrain EVI1’s dangerous impact on cellular transformation.

In prior studies, Gröschel had discovered in a rare type of AML that due to rearrangements in the DNA of the leukemia cells, a genetic enhancer is placed very close to EVI1. As a result, activation and transcription of the oncogene are abnormally high. Gröschel suspects that similar enhancer mechanisms are also at work in other EVI1-dependent tumors. He now plans to identify these mechanisms in thorough genome analyses. His ultimate goal is to use new, epigenetically active drugs to reduce EVI1’s activity to a level that no longer promotes cancer.

Stefan Gröschel, born in 1979, studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg. From 2005 to 2006, he pursued research for his doctoral thesis at Emory University in Atlanta, USA. In 2007, he joined the faculty at Ulm University Hospital as a scientist and assistant physician at the Medical Department III (Hartmut Döhner). From 2011 to 2014, he pursued research as a post-doc at the Erasmus Medical Center at Rotterdam University. Since August 2014, Gröschel has been working at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg in the Department of Translational Oncology (Christof von Kalle). Dr. Gröschel, father of two children, has already received several awards and distinctions including the 2014 Lady Tata Memorial Trust International Award for Research in Leukaemia and the 2015 Leukemia Clinical Research from the German Society of Hematology and Oncology (DGHO).

The ERC Starting Independent Researcher Grants are awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) and are designed to support excellent young researchers at an early stage of their career when they are starting their own independent research team or program in a European country. Starting Grants comprise EUR 1.5 million for a period of five years. The prestigious research grant is awarded in a highly competitive process in which only one in ten proposals is accepted.

A picture of Stefan Gröschel is available at:


The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,000 scientists investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and endeavor to find new strategies to prevent people from getting cancer. They develop novel approaches to make tumor diagnosis more precise and treatment of cancer patients more successful. The staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) offers information about the widespread disease of cancer for patients, their families, and the general public. Jointly with Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ has established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of six German Centers for Health Research, DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partnering sites. Combining excellent university hospitals with high-profile research at a Helmholtz Center is an important contribution to improving the chances of cancer patients. DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers, with ninety percent of its funding coming from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the remaining ten percent from the State of Baden-Württemberg.


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