Milestones in fighting cancer

S’Hartmut and Konstanze Döhner and PD Armin Wiegering. © Ulm University Ho

S’Hartmut and Konstanze Döhner and PD Armin Wiegering. © Ulm University Hospital / Matthias Schmiedel (left, center); Würzburg University Hospital.

The Förderstiftung MHH plus honors Konstanze Döhner and Hartmut Döhner with the Johann Georg Zimmermann Medal / Zimmermann Research Award for PD Dr. Armin Wiegering

28.05.2021

The Johann Georg Zimmermann Research Award and the Johann Georg Zimmermann Medal are among the highest honors for achievements in cancer research in Germany. The Förderstiftung MHH plus will award the prizes, sponsored by Deutsche Hypothekenbank (Actien-Gesellschaft), at an online conference on Friday, May 28, 2021.

The Johann Georg Zimmermann Medal 2020 / 2021 will be awarded to Konstanze Döhner and Hartmut Döhner. Professor Konstanze Döhner has been Clinical Senior Physician and Head of Molecular Genetic Diagnostics of Acute Myeloid Leukemias (AML) in the Department of Internal Medicine III at Ulm University Hospital since 2000. Professor Hartmut Döhner has been Medical Director of the Clinic for Internal Medicine III since 1999 and spokesman of the Comprehensive Cancer Center Ulm (CCCU) since 2006. The award of the two nationally and internationally outstanding scientists is in recognition of their research in the field of characterization of genetic alterations in AML and the development of personalized treatment concepts for this form of leukemia. They have made a significant contribution to the development of the University of Ulm into a world-leading hematology center. In addition, they have rendered outstanding services to international networking in clinical research.

The Johann Georg Zimmermann Research Prize 2020/2021 - endowed with 10,000 euros and directed at young cancer researchers for their current scientific work - goes to PD Dr. Armin Wiegering, Vice Clinic Director of the Clinic for General, Visceral, Transplantation, Vascular and Paediatric Surgery at Würzburg University Hospital. The visceral surgeon has specialised in new treatment methods for colorectal cancer and impressed the Board of Trustees with his lived vision of the "clinician scientist", who masters the balancing act between everyday clinical practice and basic research in a unique way, especially with regard to the reality of care for oncological patients.

"Due to the special merits of Professor and Professor Döhner, we have decided this year to award the Johann Georg Zimmermann Medal jointly to two prize winners for the first time in the history of the award. We are therefore pleased to be able to honour three outstanding personalities in the field of cancer research this year," emphasised Professor Dr Michael P. Manns, President of the MHH and Chairman of the Johann Georg Zimmermann Board of Trustees.

Tireless against colorectal cancer - PD Dr. Armin Wiegering

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in western industrialised countries. Worldwide, there are about 650,000 new cases every year. About half of these patients usually do not survive the disease, even if the carcinoma is surgically removed and, depending on the stage, chemotherapy is given in addition. This is also due to the high risk of recurrence of this type of cancer.

PD Dr Armin Wiegering has been fighting against colorectal cancer in the clinic and in the laboratory for years. In 2019, he and his junior research group were able to identify new therapeutic approaches. The scientists focused on the APC gene of tumour cells, which is mutated in 90 percent of all cases of colon cancer. "We wanted to find genes that are only important for the survival of cells with APC mutation, but not for healthy cells," explains Dr. Armin Wiegering. The search was successful. If they inhibited the gene called eIF2B5, the mutated colon cancer cells died so-called programmed cell death. Healthy cells, on the other hand, tolerated the inhibition of the gene without any adverse effects. Based on this finding, the research team wants to develop new treatment methods and also investigate other genes. But Wiegering is also taking a critical look at everyday hospital life. In 2020, he and his team were able to prove how important the experience of the treating clinic is for the chances of survival of bowel cancer patients. For example, at hospitals that perform very few colorectal cancer operations (an average of six per year), the mortality rate after the operation is twice as high as in hospitals with a large number of cases (an average of 50 per year). Wiegering therefore advocates operating on colorectal cancer patients in hospitals whose medical staff has sufficient experience in the field of these operations.

PD Dr. Armin Wiegering was born in 1981 in Forchheim and studied human medicine at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg. Even after his licence to practise medicine in 2008, he remained loyal to his alma mater and advanced to deputy hospital director and senior consultant at the Department of General, Visceral, Transplant, Vascular and Paediatric Surgery at Würzburg University Hospital within twelve years. Since 2020, he has also headed the Visceral Oncology Centre at Würzburg University Hospital. At the Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology I at the University of Würzburg, he has been conducting research on colorectal cancer as a junior research group leader since 2012.

Together against AML - Konstanze Döhner and Hartmut Döhner

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a rare disease with 3.5 new diagnoses per 100,000 inhabitants per year, but it is the most common form of acute leukaemia in adults in Germany. Thanks to intensive research work, the chances of cure for those affected have improved significantly in recent decades. Konstanze Döhner and Hartmut Döhner have played a significant role in this progress, because for years they have been making important contributions to the decoding and clinical characterisation of genetic changes in AML in order to enable the fastest possible diagnosis. They are recognised and networked both nationally and internationally and are not only guided by this networking idea in their own research work, but also carry it into the promotion of young scientists, which is a particular concern of theirs. They specifically prepare the future generation of doctors for their tasks in clinical-translational research and patient care, always keeping the contact with the patient in mind. With this approach, both have done real pioneering work in translational research and personalised cancer medicine.

Prof. Konstanze Döhner studied human medicine in Heidelberg and has been a senior clinical physician and head of the Laboratory for Cytogenetic and Molecular Genetic Diagnostics at the Department of Internal Medicine III (haematology, oncology, palliative medicine, rheumatology and infectious diseases) at Ulm University Hospital since 2000. She heads a collaborative research centre and a research group in the field of leukaemia research. She is a member of the Young Investigators Committee of the German Cancer Aid and on the board of the European Hematology Association (EHA).

Hartmut Döhner studied human medicine in Regensburg, Freiburg and Montpellier. After professional stations in Karlsruhe, Heidelberg and Minneapolis, USA, he has been Medical Director of the Clinic for Internal Medicine III at the University Hospital Ulm since 1999, spokesperson of the Comprehensive Cancer Center Ulm (CCCU) since 2006, and spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Centre SFB 1074 "Experimental Models and Clinical Translation in Leukaemia" since 2012. He is Co-Chair of the German-Austrian AMLSG, one of the world’s largest multicentre study groups for the research and treatment of AML. He belongs to numerous international professional societies and committees and has been an elected member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences since 2012.


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