How can I research cancer

Cancer research

This is good news: the chances of survival and the quality of life for people with cancer has improved significantly in Germany over the past forty years. Before 1980, more than two thirds of all patients died of their cancer. Today every second person affected survives cancer.

Success through research

Health research has led to tremendous medical advances in cancer treatment. Above all, cancer drugs with novel modes of action have contributed to this. One example is trastuzumab. This drug is an antibody that recognizes certain breast cancer cells and stops them growing. But better diagnostics and new surgical and radiation techniques also increase the chances of surviving the cancer. Testicular tumors in men and childhood leukemia, for example, are no longer a death sentence. It is thanks to cancer research that these two diseases can be cured in up to 95 and 80 percent of cases, respectively. Even with breast and colon cancer, the chances of a cure are much greater today than in the past. Even so, cancer is still one of the most feared diseases. Because it is the second most common cause of illness that people die from. There are currently around four million cancer patients in this country and around 500,000 new cases are added each year. These numbers will increase because the longer life expectancy increases, the greater the likelihood of developing cancer.

Less cancer thanks to prevention

It is all the more important to understand the causes of cancer in order to prevent it from developing as much as possible. Vaccination against human papilloma viruses is a successful example of scientifically sound prevention research that helps prevent cancer. Not only can infection with these viruses cause warts to form. In the worst case, infected women will also develop cervical cancer. This knowledge that certain viruses can cause cancer has revolutionized cancer research. Because in such cases, vaccinations can greatly reduce the risk of the disease. Nowadays, adolescents are vaccinated against cervical cancer as part of the usual preventive medical checkups. In this way you can protect yourself or your future sexual partner from cervical cancer. Scientists are working intensively on developing further vaccination options against cancer.

But it is also clear that there will be no vaccination against cancer. Because not all cancer is the same. Tumor, carcinoma or malignant growths - as different as the names are, as different are the course of the disease. There are benign and malignant forms - fast-growing ones like pancreatic cancer and slow-growing ones like prostate cancer. And current research shows that there are innumerable variants even within a single tumor type.

Nevertheless, the relative, age-independent incidence rate is falling. One of the reasons for this is that more and more fundamental cancer risk factors are known and can be reduced. For example, fewer men suffer from lung cancer because the number of men who smoke has been falling for a long time. But the prevention potential is much higher. Studies carried out at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, among others, show: Without the risk factors of smoking, alcohol, fatty foods or dirty air, around 165,000 fewer people across Germany would develop cancer each year. This shows the need to adequately inform the population and to sensitize them to the topic.

#X against cancer:

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), together with the Federal Ministry of Health and other partners, will start the "National Decade Against Cancer" in January 2019. The common goal is to prevent as many new cancer cases as possible and to improve early detection and care.

BMBF funds cancer research

The BMBF supports German cancer research through various measures. An essential cornerstone of this funding is the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research, or DKTK for short. It is one of the six German centers for health research to date. Twenty facilities at eight locations cooperate in the fight against cancer. The consortium gives researchers access to the best technologies that are not available everywhere: such as high-throughput methods for genome screening and large data centers for bioinformatics. One focus of research funding is the development of novel diagnostic methods and procedures.

In addition, the BMBF supports many projects in the priority program “Individualized Medicine” or “System Medicine”. The goal: to recognize and understand the typical molecular profiles of every patient. Because the risk of developing cancer is influenced by many individual factors. The BMBF also supports German cancer research in an international context. For example the international cancer genome consortium, or ICGC for short. This international cancer research project, which is currently the world's largest, aims to elucidate the molecular causes of cancer. The BMBF also participates in the European research network Translational Cancer Research, or TRANSCAN for short. The focus here: transferring research results from the laboratory to medical practices and hospitals more quickly.