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M. D. Anderson Announces Collaboration with the German Cancer Research Center

Agreement Unites Resources, Talent at Renowned Centers to Advance Cancer Research and Treatment

M. D. Anderson News Release 04/25/08

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center today signed a sister institution agreement with the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Germany's premier cancer center which is renowned particularly for excellence in basic cancer research. The mission-driven agreement formalizes long-standing academic relationships among faculty at both institutions, and solidifies plans to work collaboratively toward groundbreaking achievements in cancer research and care for the benefit of patients worldwide.

The signing ceremony for the sister institution agreement took place at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg and was presided over by John Mendelsohn, M.D., president of M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and Otmar D. Wiestler, M.D., chair and Scientific Director of the German Cancer Research Center. The ceremony culminated a day-long educational workshop featuring presentations from faculty at both institutions on topics including glioblastoma, physics, and image-guided surgery.

"The German Cancer Research Center is an outstanding partner that contributes state-of-the-art science and technology, and exceptional faculty, to our mission to eradicate cancer," said Dr. Mendelsohn. "The synergy of our respective programs presents considerable opportunities to further accelerate the process of bringing promising cancer therapies from the laboratory bench to the patient's bedside."

The German Cancer Research Center, located within the University of Heidelberg campus, was established in 1964 as Germany's First National Cancer Research Center. It is renowned as a world leader in basic cancer research, a European leader in translational research, and Germany's premier comprehensive cancer center. The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg is the clinical arm of DKFZ.  Established in 2004, the NCT is a unique cooperative effort among German academic and clinical institutions, providing multidisciplinary cancer care through a research-driven patient care model.

"The cure for cancer requires first an understanding of the complex biological mechanisms underlying the disease," said Dr. Wiestler. "The extraordinary commitment to this relationship from faculty and leadership of both institutions will most certainly lead to improved standards of patient care, research and prevention and education."

The sister institution agreement emerges from relationships between faculty and scientists at both institutions which date back more than 15 years in the areas of radiation oncology, neuro-oncology, immunotherapy and blood cancer, among others. A more formal approach to academic collaboration was advanced in November 2006, when a delegation of scientists and administrators from DKFZ-NCT, led by Dr. Wiestler, visited M. D. Anderson in Houston to discuss areas for specific collaborative projects, training exchanges for junior scientists, and a longer-term relationship between the two institutions.

Steering committees were subsequently established to identify and facilitate seed funding in support of novel collaborative research projects. The first project will use high-throughput genome-wide RNAi screens in cultured cells to discover genes that, when inactivated, will specifically kill cancer cells but not normal cells. The second project, which is already underway, focuses on refining the application of magnetic resonance imaging during minimally-invasive, robotically-assisted procedures such as biopsies, local drug delivery and thermal ablative therapy.

The signing ceremony and workshop was attended by Dr. Mendelsohn and nine M. D. Anderson faculty members including Radhe Mohan, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Physics; Uwe Titt, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Physics; John Hazle, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Imaging Physics; Edward Jackson, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Imaging Physics; Georg Halder, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Systems Biology; W. K. Alfred Yung, M.D., chair of the Department of Neuro-Oncology; Kenneth Aldape, M.D., professor in the Department of Pathology and Hilario Mata, Ph.D., MBA, project director of Extramural Programs.

Faculty participants representing DKFZ included Heike Allgayer, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Molecular Oncology of Solid Tumors; Dirk Jaeger, M.D., Director of Medical Oncology, NCT; Christof von Kalle, M.D., Director of Translational Oncology, NCT; Frank Lyko, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Epigenetics; Wolfgang Schlegel, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Medical Physics in Radiation Oncology; Wolfhard Semmler, M.D., Ph.D., and Michael Bock, Ph.D., Medical Physics in Radiology; and Roland Eils, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology.

To date, M. D. Anderson has established sister institution relationships with 17 of the premier academic and clinical cancer centers around the world, and partnered with the Department of State on a similar breast cancer initiative in the Middle East formed in 2006. Experts from all international sister and breast cancer partner institutions will gather in Houston this June for M. D. Anderson's annual Global Academic Program Conference. 04/25/08

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center