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24.02.2020

German Cancer Prize awarded to Andreas Trumpp

Identifying cancer stem cells in different types of cancer, finding their weak points, and using these results to counter the spread of tumors and curb their resistance to treatment are the goals DKTK scientist Andreas Trumpp hopes to achieve with his research. On February 19, he will receive the German Cancer Prize in the 'Experimental Research' category at the German Cancer Congress for his trailblazing work in this field. Andreas Trumpp is head of division at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Managing Director of the stem cell institute HI-STEM*.

Sponsored by the German Cancer Society and the German Cancer Foundation, the German Cancer Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in German oncology.

The basic research conducted by prizewinner Andreas Trumpp has corroborated the concept of tumor stem cells, hence making a key contribution to understanding how cancer arises and spreads in the body. Trumpp has been conducting this pioneering work at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) since 2008. He began by looking at the self-renewal of hematopoietic stem cells. He was able to demonstrate that blood stem cells often exist in a sleep-like state and are only activated by the loss of more mature blood cells or by inflammatory processes. Stem cells are multi-resistant in this quiescent state.

Trumpp transferred these regulation processes of normal hematopoiesis to leukemia stem cells and observed that whether they are active or in a resting state depends on the MYC oncogene. This finding is important for clinical practice because activated cancer stem cells can be treated using chemotherapy, whereas quiescent stem cells do not respond to it.

Trumpp demonstrated cancer stem cells that circulate in the blood and are responsible for metastasis in solid tumors such as breast cancer too. He and his colleagues also discovered how leukemia stem cells protect themselves against the immune response in AML: They remove a molecule targeted by natural killer cells from their surface – this protective mechanism can be overcome using poly-ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitors, which have already been approved as cancer drugs.

Andreas Trumpp's research has played a key role in making stem cell research a vital part of cancer research.

Born in Heilbronn in 1964, Trumpp studied biology in Freiburg and subsequently obtained a doctorate at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg. From 1993 to 2000, he worked at the University of California in San Francisco in the research laboratory of Nobel Laureate J. Michael Bishop. In 2000, he was appointed research group head at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) in Epalinges/Lausanne and was also made assistant professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in 2005.

Following his appointment as head of the Division of Stem Cells and Cancer at DKFZ, he became founding director of the HI-STEM gGmbH in 2008. The purpose of the institute is to develop new approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer using high-level basic research on normal and malignant stem cells. Trumpp is the author of more than 150 academic publications, the majority of which appeared in prestigious journals such as Nature and Cell. He owns a number of patents and works as a coordinator in numerous academic partnerships and on committees in Germany and abroad.

The German Cancer Prize is awarded annually by the German Cancer Society for outstanding work in German-speaking countries in three categories with equal prize money:

  • experimental basic research in oncology (experimental category),
  • translational research (transfer of experimental research results into clinical practice), and
  • tumor diagnosis and treatment (clinical category).

The prize is sponsored by the German Cancer Society and the German Cancer Foundation. Each category carries prize money of EUR 7,500.

This year's prize in the 'Clinical Research' category goes to Andreas du Bois (KEM – Evangelische Kliniken Essen Mitte gGmbH), and in the 'Translational Research' category to Rita Schmutzler (Center of Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Hospital Cologne). The award ceremony for the researchers will be held at the 34th German Cancer Congress in Berlin.

*The Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Research and Experimental Medicine (HI-STEM) was founded in 2008 as a public–private partnership between DKFZ and the Dietmar Hopp Foundation.

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