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First branch of the German Cancer Research Center in Dresden for intelligent technologies in the fight against cancer

No. 36 | 29/07/2019 | by Grö

With support from the State of Saxony, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) plans to step up cancer research considerably at the Dresden site. DKFZ's first branch outside Heidelberg is to work on pioneering technologies that use smart sensors and artificial intelligence to improve the prevention and treatment of cancer. A dedicated building will be erected on the Oncology Campus of Dresden University Medicine at TU Dresden.

© Adobe Stock, lunamarina

Michael Kretschmer, Prime Minister of the State of Saxony, DKFZ Chairman and Scientific Director Michael Baumann, and DKFZ Administrative Director Josef Puchta signed a joint declaration of intent at a special ceremony.

Cancer is set to increase dramatically across the globe in the near future. This not only calls for more effective treatments, but also for the development of innovative, smart digital technologies that can be used to improve cancer prevention, early detection, treatment management, and follow-on care. "There is an enormous need for research on these kinds of pioneering technologies throughout the world, and huge potential for their application in the medium term," Michael Baumann explained. The new DKFZ branch in Dresden will address this topic for the future with support from the State of Saxony.

One professorship and two independent junior research groups will initially be created in the field of smart sensors and artificial intelligence. At the same time, an outpatient clinic for cancer prevention is to be set up in collaboration with the National Cancer Prevention Center, which is currently being established and is jointly funded by DKFZ and German Cancer Aid. Application of the newly developed smart technologies will be tested on site by prevention researchers. Plans are also being made to provide advice for citizens looking for effective ways of reducing their own personal cancer risk. It is hoped that the pilot project in Dresden will serve as an example to show how cancer prevention can be integrated into other top-level oncology centers too.

"The Dresden site offers an outstanding technological environment at international level for developing microelectronic and data science technologies of the future. That was a decisive factor in our decision to set up DKFZ's first branch in Saxony's capital. Dresden's technical university, which has just been named one of the 'universities of excellence' again, its outstanding non-university research institutions, and its high-tech industry provide unique conditions for the basic development of smart technologies of the future in the fight against cancer," Michael Baumann remarked. "In addition, the new DKFZ branch can make particularly effective use of our strong institutions for patient-focused cancer research that have been established in recent years. This will give us the critical mass we need for international cutting-edge research."

To date, in collaboration with Dresden University Medicine and Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), DKFZ has set up a partner site of the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) and of the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), OncoRay – National Center for Radiation Research in Oncology, and a branch of DKFZ's Cancer Information Service in Dresden.

"By establishing DKFZ's first branch outside Heidelberg, Dresden is once again demonstrating its pioneering role in developing innovative and powerful structures; it is also boosting both cancer research at the site and microelectronic and AI research and development in Saxony," Michael Kretschmer explained, underlining the importance of the new branch for the State of Saxony. "DKFZ is one of the world's leading cancer research institutions and already began operating here in recent years at a number of clinical research institutions, such as NCT. We are delighted that DKFZ has now chosen to set up its own branch directly in our state and to focus on basic science here with support from the State of Saxony to develop innovative technologies of the future."

"It makes sense to set up a branch of the Heidelberg-based German Cancer Research Center in Dresden, which is home to natural science and technology institutions at TU Dresden. Saxony has increased its capacity in this area very considerably in recent years. Research in the field of oncology has been developed to provide strong impetus for oncology, and treatment methods can now be tailored even more effectively to patients' needs. We now have highly modern, individualized translational oncology at the very highest level in Dresden. The establishment of the DKFZ branch is an excellent opportunity for Dresden as a site of cancer research and treatment to join forces with DKFZ and make further progress in basic research in oncology and in cancer prevention," Eva-Maria Stange, Saxony's State Minister for Science and the Arts, commented.

"Cutting-edge research requires close, well-coordinated partnerships. It benefits from cooperation between universities and non-university research institutions. The new DKFZ branch on Dresden University Medicine's Oncology Campus will bring together two excellent partners in the field of cancer research," Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association, enthused in his welcome address. "There is huge global competition for the best talents, and the future of our country depends on this. If we are to succeed, research institutions throughout the country need to look for the best partners for particularly innovative issues. The new DKFZ branch here in Dresden marks an important step in creating a top-level site in this field, thus promoting Germany's innovation potential as a global leader. I am also delighted that Helmholtz contributes decisively in a research field of such importance to society and ensures that research results benefit patients even faster."

Prof. Hans Müller-Steinhagen, Rector of TU Dresden, stresses the importance of interdisciplinarity: "True scientific breakthroughs increasingly result from cooperation of leading researchers across individual academic disciplines. In addition to its cutting-edge medicine, TU Dresden has internationally acclaimed research expertise in areas of crucial importance to the new DKFZ branch, namely microelectronics, network communication, and data science. For the renowned Heidelberg-based German Cancer Research Center, the branch in Dresden thus offers an ideal research environment to develop innovative technological solutions for essential medical challenges of the future."

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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