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A high distinction for a pioneer in liquid biopsy

No. 57 | 28/11/2017 | by Koh

Nitzan Rosenfeld from Cancer Research UK in Cambridge is being honored with the 2017 Meyenburg Award, which carries a €50,000 monetary prize. He receives the award for his excellent work on the detection of tumor DNA in the blood. Rosenfeld has made seminal contributions to advancing a method for detecting cancer DNA in the blood to applicability in cancer medicine.
The Meyenburg-Award will be presented on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, at a symposium held at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).

Nitzan Rosenfeld
© DKFZ/ private

DNA from all cell types of the body continuously circulates in our blood. When a person has cancer, fragments of tumor cell DNA are also amongst them. Since cancer cells often exhibit typical genetic alterations, one can differentiate cancer DNA from genetic material of healthy cells.

Detecting cancer DNA in blood samples, a method known as liquid biopsy, opens a host of new possibilities for physicians. Nitzan Rosenfeld, a physicist by education, has made pioneering accomplishments in this field. One milliliter of blood contains about 10,000 floating DNA molecules from healthy cells and only a few dozens from cancer cells. Rosenfeld has developed techniques to amplify, sequence and identify cancer DNA fragments even if only traces of them are found.

Physicians will be able to use these methods in order to track whether the tumor responds to therapy. Since liquid biopsy can be repeated without problems at monthly intervals, the non-invasive method can also be used to monitor whether a tumor has returned after initial treatment. Optimistic medical experts even expect that in the future it will be possible to detect cancer using blood sample tests alone.

"Nitzan Rosenfeld's work has been instrumental in advancing the detection of tumor DNA in blood samples from an experimental technique to a method opening a multitude of new options in cancer medicine," says Christof von Kalle, who is a board member of the Meyenburg Foundation. He continues: "For many common cancer types, colleagues could already show in large studies what liquid biopsy can do. For example, a recurrence of bowel cancer could be detected based on a rise in cancer DNA in patient blood ten months earlier than by medical imaging. In lung cancer cases, colleagues were able to show how therapy resistance develops."

Nitzan Rosenfeld earned a PhD degree at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. In 2005, he joined the biotech company Rosetta Genomics, where he led the development of genetic cancer tests. Since 2009, he has been a group leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge.

The Meyenburg Foundation, which is based at the DKFZ, has awarded the distinction since 1981. Dr. Marion Meyenburg, daughter of founders Wilhelm and Maria Meyenburg, will personally present this year's award at the end of the symposium. The Meyenburg Award honors outstanding achievements in cancer research. It is presented annually and is accompanied by one of the highest monetary prizes in German science.

The importance of this award is also reflected in the fact that numerous Meyenburg laureates have gone on to win a Nobel Prize: Andrew Fire, who won the Meyenburg Award in 2002, received a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2006. Elizabeth Blackburn, laureate of 2006, became a Medicine Nobel Prize winner in 2009. Shinya Yamanaka, Meyenburg Award winner of 2007, also received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2012. Stefan Hell, winner of 2011, received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2014.

The symposium will start at 3:30 p.m. on November 28, 2017, in the auditorium of the DKFZ. Among the speakers will be Frank Diehl of Sysmex Inostics and Holger Sültmann from the DKFZ, who both are experts in the field of analyzing cancer DNA in the blood.

A change from the subject of cancer research will be provided by an impulse lecture to be held by Daniel Sonntag from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) in Saarbrücken.

Interested members of the public are welcome to attend the event.

A picture of Nitzam Rosenfeld is available on the Internet at:

Note on use of images related to press releases
Use is free of charge. The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) permits one-time use in the context of reporting about the topic covered in the press release. Images have to be cited as follows: "Source: DKFZ/ private".
Distribution of images to third parties is not permitted unless prior consent has been obtained from DKFZ's Press Office (phone: ++49-(0)6221 42 2854, E-mail: Any commercial use is prohibited.


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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