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Meyenburg Prize 2019 for outstanding research on leukemia

No. 51 | 06/11/2019 | by Koh

The Meyenburg Prize 2019, which carries prize money of 50,000 euros, goes to Benjamin L. Ebert from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for his outstanding research results on the pathogenesis and treatment of leukemia. The award ceremony will take place on Thursday, November 7, 2019 as part of a symposium at the German Cancer Research Center.

Benjamin L. Ebert (left), Stefan Fröhling (Managing Director of NCT Heidelberg)
© Carina Kircher/DKFZ

"Benjamin Ebert is a highly creative and multifaceted scientist. His work has led to important new findings in various areas of cancer research that have made a crucial contribution to improving our understanding of cancer. His research results also have a direct impact on diagnosis and treatment," explained Stefan Fröhling, Director of the Meyenburg Foundation and Managing Director of NCT Heidelberg. "The Meyenburg Prize 2019 recognizes Benjamin Ebert's outstanding contribution to improving clinical care for cancer patients through high-quality research."

One of the results from Ebert's laboratory that has attracted the most attention was the identification of genetic mutations in blood and bone marrow cells that predispose older people to developing leukemia. Individuals with this "pre-malignant syndrome" do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of leukemia, even though the same mutations occur in leukemia patients, as discovered by Ebert and his colleagues from the genome data of tens of thousands of people. People with this "CHIP syndrome" have a tenfold higher risk of developing leukemia than the general population; they also have a considerably higher overall mortality rate and, to the researchers' surprise, a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. Patients who have been diagnosed as having CHIP can now be closely monitored for leukemia to allow treatment to be started as early as possible.

Benjamin Ebert also revealed the mode of action of an important cancer drug: Lenalidomide, which is related to thalidomide, is effective against certain types of multiple myeloma. Along with related drugs, the substance leads to degradation of certain cancer-promoting transcription factors in cells, which in turn reduces cancer growth. These findings were the starting point for a completely new area of research in which huge efforts are now being undertaken to develop drugs that are able to degrade cancer-promoting proteins.

Benjamin L. Ebert
© Carina Kircher/DKFZ

Benjamin L. Ebert obtained a bachelor's degree from Williams College, Massachusetts, a doctorate from Oxford University, and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He completed a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship in hematology/oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He worked at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School for ten years before being appointed to the Chair of Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Benjamin L. Ebert has received a number of awards and accolades, including most recently his election to the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, the William Dameshek Prize from the American Society of Hematology, and the McCulloch & Till Award from the International Society for Experimental Hematology.

Based at the German Cancer Research Center, the Meyenburg Foundation has been awarding the prize since 1981. Dr Marion Meyenburg, the daughter of the founders Wilhelm and Maria Meyenburg, will be presenting this year's prize in person at the end of the symposium. The prize is awarded annually for outstanding achievements in the field of cancer research and is one of Germany's science awards with the highest prize money. The importance of the award can also be seen from the fact that many of the researchers who have won the Meyenburg Prize are also Nobel laureates: Andrew Fire, winner of the Meyenburg Prize 2002, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2006; Elizabeth Blackburn, winner of the Meyenburg Prize 2006, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2009; Shinya Yamanaka, winner of the Meyenburg Prize 2007, was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2012; Stefan Hell, winner of the Meyenburg Prize 2011, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2014.

In addition to Benjamin Ebert, the speakers at the Meyenburg Symposium 2019 will be Hartmut Döhner (Ulm University Hospital), Richard Rosenquist Brandell (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm), Rocio Sotillo (DKFZ), and Winette van der Graaf (Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam). The event will be held at DKFZ's Communication Center from 3.30 pm on Thursday, November 7, 2019. The symposium and award ceremony are open to anyone interested in the event.

*CHIP: clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential

The program is available for downloading: 


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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