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COMPASS: The guide to new therapies for children with cancer

No. 01 | 07/01/2019 | by Mat

Through a targeted combination of molecular and microscopy-based techniques, researchers aim to identify new treatment approaches for children with cancer. The Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) coordinates the project, which is funded by the European consortium ERA PerMed with 1.5 million euros and involves scientific institutions from France, the Netherlands, Finland and Hungary in addition to the KiTZ.
The "Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg" (KiTZ) is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) and Heidelberg University.

The COMPASS project aims to identify new ways of treating childhood cancers
© Adobe Stock / Tobias Machhaus

When standard therapies fail in the treatment of children with cancer, molecular procedures can lead the way to new, targeted drugs. But what if they alone do not deliver the hoped-for key to treatment success? "Then we apply high-throughput microscopy techniques to investigate whether the tumor tissue is responsive to a library of clinically approved drugs, adding a valuable dimension to diagnostics," said Olaf Witt, director of the Translational Program at the KiTZ and head of the Division of Pediatric Oncology in the Clinical Cooperation Unit of the German Cancer Research Center and the Heidelberg University Hospital. "Combining the functional image-based drug response data with the information obtained through molecular analyzes, we obtain more accurate evidence of promising therapeutic approaches in previously incurable childhood cancer."

This forms the approach of the new project COMPASS (Clinical implementation Of Multidimensional PhenotypicAl drug SenSitivities in paediatric precision oncology), which is funded by the European consortium ERA PerMed with 1.5 million euros over a period of three years. ERA PerMed is an association focused on the promotion of personalized medicine projects, with 32 partners from over 23 countries. It is co-funded by the European Commission.

"The goal is to build an international, standardized and validated platform for drug testing based on image analysis and accompanying molecular analysis that characterizes and classifies different types of tumors for their response to different drugs," said KiTZ staff member Sina Oppermann, Scientific Coordinator of the COMPASS project. "In the long run, the data will be translated into clinical trials at the KiTZ, so that affected children benefit as quickly as possible from the findings."

In addition to the KiTZ with its European children's oncology platform "INFORM", five other scientific institutions are partners in the COMPASS project: the Institute Curie (Paris, France), Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology (Utrecht, The Netherlands), Academic Medical Center,University of Amsterdam (AMC) (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) and University of Helsinki (Finland) and the startup company Single Cell Technologies Inc. (Szeged, Hungary).

An image for this press release is available for download at: www.dkfz.de/de/presse/pressemitteilungen/2018/bilder/Kompass_AdobeStock_Tobias-Machhaus.jpg 

Caption:
The COMPASS project aims to identify new ways of treating childhood cancers

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The Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ)
The „Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg" (KiTZ) is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg University Hospital and Heidelberg University. As the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), which focusses on adult oncology, the KiTZ is based on the US model of so-called "Comprehensive Cancer Centers" (CCC). As a therapy and research center for oncologic and hematologic diseases in children and adolescents, the KiTZ is committed to scientifically exploring the biology of childhood cancer and to closely linking promising research approaches with patient care– from diagnosis to treatment and aftercare. Children suffering from cancer, especially those with no established therapy options, are given an individual therapy plan in the KiTZ, which is created by interdisciplinary expert groups in so-called tumor boards. Many young patients can participate in clinical trials which ensures access to new therapy options. Thus, the KiTZ is a pioneering institution for transferring research knowledge from the laboratory to the clinic.
While the KiTZ focuses on pediatric oncology, the focus of the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), founded in 2004, is adult oncology. Both facilities in Heidelberg are based on the US model of so-called "Comprehensive Cancer Centers" (CCC).

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ)
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.

Heidelberg University Hospital and Medical Faculty
Internationally recognized patient care, research, and teaching
Heidelberg University Hospital is one of the largest and most prestigious medical centers in Germany. The Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University belongs to the internationally most renowned biomedical research institutions in Europe. Both institutions have the common goal of developing new therapies and implementing them rapidly for patients. With about 13,000 employees, training and qualification is an important issue. Every year, around 65,000 patients are treated on an inpatient basis, 56,000 cases on a day patient basis and more than 1,000,000 cases on an outpatient basis in more than 50 clinics and departments with almost 2,000 beds. Jointly with the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and German Cancer Aid, Heidelberg University Hospital has established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. Currently, about 3,700 future physicians are studying in Heidelberg; the reform Heidelberg Curriculum Medicinale (HeiCuMed) is one of the top medical training programs in Germany. www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de

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