Kendra Maass receives 2022 CERN Robert Connor Dawes Scientific Fellowship Award

Kendra Maass, scientist at the Hopp Children's Tumor Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), has been awarded with the CERN Robert Connor Dawes Scientific Fellowship Award 2022. The grant is awarded by the National Brain Tumor Society and endowed with 100,000 US dollars. It allows Maass to accurately study the mass transfer of brain tumor cells in children.

Kendra Maass, scientist at the Hopp Children's Tumor Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), at the lab.
Electromicroscopic images of ependymoma tumor cells with staining
Left: Electron microscopic image of an ependymoma cell with vesicles being expelled from the cell surface. Right: Ependymoma cell stained for an important vesicle factor (CD81, red) and a structural protein (nestin, green). © K. Maass/KiTZ

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 (Uni HD).

For the project, Maass is investigating specific factors in the formation, release and uptake of so-called vesicles. These cellular components are used by tumor cells for transmitting information to specific cellular areas, their proximal surrounding (normal and cancer cells), but also via the blood to more distant body sites. Maass proposes to inhibit these pathways, suppressing the interactions of the most aggressive ependymoma tumor cells. Ependymoma are the third most common type of brain tumor in children and are particularly common in younger children. They often grow very aggressively and have a high risk of recurrence.

Enhancing ependymoma diagnosis and prognosis

Under the fellowship, Maass will further use blood tests, known as liquid biopsies, to identify markers for the diagnosis and prognosis of these childhood brain tumors. To do this, she will analyze vesicles released by ependymoma cells into the bloodstream.  
“I am deeply honored to be awarded with the prestigious CERN Robert Connor Dawes Scientific Fellowship which allows me to investigate the vesicular pathways as potential vulnerability in ependymoma and to designate my time to improve the outlook of ependymoma patients,” says Maass who conducts her research under the leadership of pediatric oncologist Kristian Pajtler from Hopp Children’s Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ), German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD).

Improving the understanding of pediatric ependymoma

“On behalf of the ependymoma community, I want to extend my sincere excitement in welcoming Kendra Maass to the fellowship program. Over the years, we have developed important relationships with the excellent clinicians and scientists at KiTZ in Heidelberg, Germany, through the support of various research efforts, community education and awareness programs, and as a trusted referral site for families seeking a second opinion in the EU and beyond,” Kimberly Wallgren, Executive Director of the CERN (Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network) Foundation, a program of the National Brain Tumor Society, emphasizes, “and we look forward to continuing those relationships and furthering our understanding of pediatric ependymoma through Maass’ research proposal.”
The international fellowship is open to researchers worldwide, the applications are therefore highly competitive. The fellowship is intended to advance research in the field of childhood brain tumors, especially with regard to the rather rare ependymoma. In partnership with the CERN Foundation, this named fellowship is supported by the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation. The RCD Foundation supports pediatric brain matters in the areas of research, care, and development and was created in 2013 in the memory of Robert 'Connor' Dawes.

 

 

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