New concepts for personalized cancer medicine for childhood sarcoma

On 1 April, the Hopp Children’s Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) gained a new research unit dedicated to childhood sarcoma. Called ‘Translational Pediatric Sarcoma Research’, the unit is also a new department at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). It is being supported by the Barbara and Wilfried Mohr Foundation with seed funding of 1.5 million euros.

Ewing sarcoma with a strong nuclear marker expression. Image Source: Grünewald/LMU.
Ewing sarcoma with a strong nuclear marker expression. Image Source: Grünewald/LMU.

The Hopp Children’s Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), University Hospital Heidelberg (UKHD) and the University of Heidelberg (Uni HD).

“By expanding its expertise in the field of sarcoma research and with the recruitment of Thomas Grünewald, the KiTZ has taken another important step towards becoming an internationally competitive comprehensive cancer center for children,” says Stefan Pfister, Director of Preclinical Pediatric Oncology at the KiTZ and head of the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology department at the DKFZ. Michael Baumann, Chairman of the DKFZ, says, “We are very proud to have been able to recruit such an outstanding researcher and physician for Heidelberg.”

There is a particularly urgent need for action in sarcoma research because sarcomas are the third most common type of cancer in children and young people, and the cure rates are significantly lower than for other types of cancer. For instance, the mortality rate for Ewing sarcomas and Ewing-like sarcomas is still around 35 percent.

Grünewald and his team of 15 medics, biologists and bioinformaticians aim to change this situation. The team is already working intensively at LMU Munich, researching the onset, metastasis and drug resistance of malignant childhood sarcomas. “Thanks to the support of the Mohr Foundation, we can now expand our research at one of the best centers in the world for cancer research,” explains Grünewald.

The first task is to identify disease mechanisms that can be used therapeutically and diagnostically to improve the chances of recovery for affected children and young people in the long term. The focus is on gentler therapies and on overcoming drug resistance in tumors. In addition, the researchers are looking for new diagnostic methods, which are essential for making a correct diagnosis and selecting the right treatment. There is an emphasis on decoding the interplay of inherited mutations and innate natural genetic variations (single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs), which play a key role in cancer onset and development, particularly in the case of Ewing sarcoma. The analyses carried out by Grünewald’s team have provided some initial possible explanations for why Europeans are around 20 times more likely to develop Ewing sarcoma than Africans, and how this kind of interplay can affect the progression of Ewing sarcoma in individual patients.

Barbara and Wilfried Mohr Foundation

The Barbara and Wilfried Mohr Foundation promotes science and research in the field of oncology. It awards oncological research contracts, supports research projects and awards prizes and scholarships. The foundation also provides welfare support to people who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. www.mohr-stiftung.de

Press contact:

Dr. Alexandra Moosmann
Hopp Children’s Cancer Center (KiTZ)
Head of Media and Public Relations
Im Neuenheimer Feld 130.3
69120 Heidelberg
T: +49 (0) 6221 56 36434
E-Mail: a.moosmann[at]kitz-heidelberg.de
E-Mail: presse[at]kitz-heidelberg.de

Dr. Alexandra Moosmann

KiTZ Media and Public Relations

Postal address:
Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 130.3
69120 Heidelberg

 

Svenja Schmitt

KiTZ Social Media

Postal address:
Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg
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69120 Heidelberg

 

Larissa Fritzenschaf

KiTZ Online Editor

Postal address:
Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 130.3
69120 Heidelberg