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ERC grant for Stefan Pfister: “We must further advance pediatric cancer research”

No. 04 | 28/01/2019 | by Mat

KiTZ director Stefan Pfister, professor of pediatric neurooncology at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the Heidelberg University Hospital, succeeded in gaining one of the prestigious ERC Consolidator Grants for his project entitled "BRAIN-MATCH". The goal of BRAIN-MATCH is to characterize normal brain development using molecular-biological methods and to compare it with the development of brain cancer. Pfister and his team plan to use the results obtained as a basis for finding new approaches in the treatment of brain cancer in children. The European Research Council (ERC) awards "Consolidator Grants" to support excellent scientists who are expanding their research activities.
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.

KiTZ director Stefan Pfister has received an ERC Consolidator Grant.
© KiTZ

"I am very pleased about the ERC Consolidator Grant, which is a high distinction for our research," said Pfister. "We will use the funds to expand our activities in investigating normal brain development and identifying parallels with the development of pediatric brain tumors. We will use the findings we obtain for the systematic search for new therapy approaches."

Although childhood cancer is generally considered to be well treatable, there are still some subtypes of cancer of the central nervous system that fail to respond or respond with difficulty to therapy – despite all medical progress made over the past decades.

Pfister and his team will use the ERC grant to study more than 30,000 tissue samples from over 100 different types of brain tumor using the most advanced analysis and IT methods. In this study, the scientists will take account of molecular differences between tumor types and also of various stages of carcinogenesis. In order to better comprehend the biological causes of tumor development, the researchers plan to make comprehensive comparisons between healthy brain tissue and tumor tissue. From the differences found they will draw conclusions about the causes of tumor development in order to find clues towards new treatment approaches.

Childhood cancer types are often fundamentally different from adult cancer types which may look similar or the same under the microscope. Findings from cancer research concerning adults can therefore not be transferred unmodified to pediatric oncology. "It is crucial that we further advance pediatric cancer research in order to gain a better understanding of the biology of pediatric tumor types," Pfister explained. "Our goal is to be also able to help those approximately 20 percent of children with cancer for whom there is no suitable treatment method so far." He added: "The support of our project BRAIN-MATCH by the ERC is an important contribution towards this goal." The project is scheduled for a period of five years and will receive ERC Grant funds of € 2 million.

In 2018, the European Research Council awarded 291 Consolidator Grants with a total budget volume of € 573 million, as part of the Horizon 2020 project. Twenty-five of the grants went to German scientists.

An image for this press release is available for download at: 

KiTZ director Stefan Pfister has received an ERC Consolidator Grant.

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: KiTZ".
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.

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,300 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. DKFZ’s Cancer Information Service (KID) provides individual answers to all questions about cancer for patients, the general public, and health care professionals. Jointly with partners from Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ runs the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) located in Heidelberg and Dresden, and, also in Heidelberg, the Hopp Children’s Cancer Center (KiTZ). In the German Cancer Consortium (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 at the NCT and DKTK sites is an important contribution to the endeavor of translating promising approaches from cancer research into the clinic in order to improve 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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