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New Cancer Center for Bavaria


A new site of the German National Center for Tumour Diseases will be established in Bavaria. It will be coordinated from Würzburg; Erlangen, Regensburg and Augsburg are also involved.

Professor Michael Baumann and Professor Hermann Einsele.
They joined the press conference in Berlin from Würzburg: Professor Michael Baumann, the Chairman of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, and Professor Hermann Einsele, the Director of the Department of Medicine II of the Würzburg University Hospital and site coordinator of the newly established NCT WERA in Würzburg. (Image: Robert Emmerich / Universität Würzburg)

Promoting cancer research and giving as many patients as possible access to the latest treatment methods – this is the mission of the German National Center for Tumour Diseases (NCT).

The center already has two locations: one in Heidelberg and one in Dresden. They will be complemented by four new sites out of eight applicants. This was announced by Anja Karliczek, Federal Minister of Education and Research, during a press conference in Berlin on 23 September 2020.

The newly selected NCT locations will initially receive funding for a one-year concept phase. During this time, they can prepare a joint strategy for the establishment and implementation of the expanded NCT. If the overall concept and the contributions of the individual sites get a positive assessment, they will receive permanent funding from the federal and state governments.

Cooperation in the WERA network

One of the four new NCT sites is located in Bavaria. It will be established under the leadership of the University of Würzburg, the Würzburg University Hospital and the Comprehensive Cancer Center Mainfranken – in cooperation with the universities and university hospitals in Erlangen, Regensburg and Augsburg.

These partners will collaborate in the WERA network (Würzburg, Erlangen, Regensburg and Augsburg). Following their successful application for being admitted to the National Center, they now operate under the name of NCT WERA. They will receive EUR 300,000 funding for the one-year concept phase.

"This success once again shows Würzburg's excellent standing as a medical site, especially also in the field of cancer research and treatment," Alfred Forchel, the University President, and Georg Ertl, the Medical Director of the University Hospital, are pleased to comment. Being awarded the NCT site speaks for itself after Würzburg had already been chosen to accommodate the Comprehensive Heart Failure Center (DZHI) which has been funded by the German government since 2010.

Matthias Frosch, the Dean of the Medical Department of the University of Würzburg, believes that this confirms the strategic development of the department: Würzburg has once again shown to be in the international top league in the field of cancer research and treatment – as a result of the targeted recruitment and promotion of top scientists as well as the focused and sustainable promotion of young scientists especially in cancer medicine."

Research programme of the new center

Würzburg Professor Hermann Einsele, a cancer expert and the Director of the Department of Medicine II, is the coordinator of the NCT WERA: "Our goal is to provide innovative cancer treatments also to people in predominantly rural areas and to give them access to clinical trials."

To achieve this goal, the WERA partners have established a comprehensive research programme under Würzburg leadership. It is based on two major lines of action: one is the entire range of new immunotherapies where specially prepared CAR-T cells – immune cells fitted with a new receptor – selectively attack the tumours. Researchers from Würzburg have significantly contributed to developing this form of treatment; it is constantly being enhanced in the team of Professors Hermann Einsele, Ralf Bargou and Michael Hudecek.

Analysing proteins that trigger cancer is another focus of their research. The controlled breaking down of these proteins plays a crucial role in the disease process and offers targets for fundamentally new cancer treatments which are being researched by the team of Martin Eilers and Elmar Wolf, two biochemistry professors from Würzburg.

"The ibdw biobank is another special feature of our site which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research," says Einsele. This facility collects and analyses blood and tissue samples from patients. It enables special biomarkers for individual diseases to be identified and thus contributes significantly to developing new therapeutic concepts.

Comprehensive Cancer Center Mainfranken

The Comprehensive Cancer Center Mainfranken (CCC MF) is a network of institutions for researching and treating tumour diseases. It has been funded by Deutsche Krebshilfe (German Cancer Aid) as a top center of oncology since 2011. Together with regional partners it has since developed a clinical study network which gives patients in Main-Franconia access to diagnostic and therapeutic innovations.

In 2019, the Cancer Centers in Würzburg, Erlangen, Regensburg and Augsburg were merged under the umbrella of the WERA association. It comprises a joint network for early studies and regional study networks in rural areas with a population of around eight million.

By Robert Emmerich