Prof. Roland Rad and Prof. Dieter Saur of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) were honored yesterday with the German Cancer Award in the experimental research category. The scientists were recognized for their collaboration on the causes of pancreatic cancer. They conduct their research at the Center for Translational Cancer Research (TranslaTUM).
Prof. Roland Rad, the director of the Institute for Molecular Oncology and Functional Genomics, and Dieter Saur, a professor of Translational Cancer Research, work with mouse models to study the molecular processes through which cancer arises. They have developed genetic techniques that make it possible to search systematically for tumor genes in the genome and to manipulate these genes in mice. Their work has led to the discovery of molecular pathways involved in the development of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic tumors are among those with the highest mortality rates worldwide. In many cases, metastasis has already begun when the initial diagnosis is made.
As a result of a ten-year collaboration, the two scientists were able to show for the first time in 2018 that important characteristics of pancreatic tumors are determined by the number of defective copies of the cancer gene KRAS. The gene plays a key role in cellular proliferation and is activated in 90% of all human pancreatic tumors. The researchers showed that as the number of mutant KRAS copies increases, there is a parallel increase in the tumor’s aggressiveness and ability to metastasize. They also discovered the biological principles underlying these different manifestations of the disease. The jury's citation highlighted the scientists' fundamentally new contributions to the understanding of tumor development with far-reaching implications for other cancer types as well.
Research groups at TranslaTUM
Professors Rad and Saur and their working groups conduct their research at TranslaTUM, a groundbreaking interdisciplinary cancer research center at TUM, where doctors work with colleagues from the fields of natural sciences and engineering on research into causes, diagnostics and potential treatments of cancerous diseases. The name TranslaTUM refers to another defining characteristic of the center: rapid conversion of the new knowledge into patient care – referred to by specialists as "research translation". This is made possible by the center's close proximity to the university hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar. Doctors can convert their experience with individual cases into new research ideas and apply the results in clinical practice.
The German Cancer Award is presented annually in three categories. Along with experimental research, awards are given for clinical and translational research. They are granted by the German Cancer Society and German Cancer Foundation and are among the most prestigious oncology awards in Germany. This year's awards were presented at the 20th International AEK Cancer Congress in Heidelberg.