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Millions In Funding For Hopp Children's Tumor Center Heidelberg

"Fight Kids Cancer" funds research projects with around 6.5 million euros

Four projects at the Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) have been selected by the European "Fight Kids Cancer" program for the 2024 funding round to receive a total of around 6.5 million euros. The research projects focus primarily on childhood brain tumors, which have been particularly difficult to treat to date. The KiTZ is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) and Heidelberg University (Uni HD).

The Hopp Children's Tumor Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) will receive around 6.5 million euros from the "Fight Kids Cancer" program for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for childhood brain tumors. Source: Marius Stark/KiTZ

"Fight Kids Cancer" (FKC) is a European program supported by non-profit organizations that are committed to fighting childhood cancer and supporting affected families. The five supporting organizations Imagine for Margo (France), KickCancer (Belgium), Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner (Luxembourg), CRIS (Spain) and Kika (the Netherlands) generate donations through charity runs and other fundraising activities. Funding is provided for transnational early clinical studies and clinical research projects that have the potential to sustainably improve the situation of children with cancer. In the 2024 funding round, an international jury of experts has now selected four excellence projects involving the Hopp Children's Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) for funding by FKC.

"Due to the comparatively small number of patients, clinical pediatric cancer research can only be successful if many international centers join forces so that young cancer patients can benefit from new findings as quickly as possible. Without programs like Fight Kids Cancer, large-scale international projects would not be possible. The KiTZ is deeply grateful to all its sponsors in Germany and abroad," emphasizes Stefan Pfister, Director of the KiTZ, Head of Department at the DKFZ and paediatric oncologist at the UKHD.

The SOUP (Scanning the liquids of paediatric brain tumour patients to personalize treatment) research project is concerned with developing a reliable, minimally invasive molecular test for brain tumours in children and adolescents, which enables precise examination of the cancer, independent of surgery. The international research team, in which a total of 14 centers in seven countries are involved, is analyzing genetic fragments from the cerebrospinal fluid. "A precise diagnosis can support surgeons in planning safe operations and help them to plan the most promising therapies during the course of the disease, even if the tumor recurs," says Kendra Maaß, project manager at KiTZ and DKFZ, who is leading the project together with Johannes Gojo from the Medical University of Vienna. The project is funded by FKC with 1,998,000 euros.

The FIGHT4MB project with participating centers in Portugal, Spain and Germany focuses on research into a particularly dangerous form of medulloblastoma, the most common malignant tumor in the central nervous system of children and adolescents. At present, around 40 percent of young people affected by this disease still die. The tumors have been little researched because they could not be "grown" in the laboratory, neither as a cell culture nor in mice. Only recently have the decisive mutations and the cell type that lead to their development been identified, partly through a study at the KiTZ. "Based on these results, we can now grow these tumors in the laboratory for the first time in order to find their weak point," explains Lena Kutscher, head of the working group at the KiTZ and the DKFZ. The project is led by Adriana Sánchez-Danés from the Champalimaud Foundation in Portugal and will receive funding of 1,678,000 euros.

The European ITCC-BrainTAP program with centers in Austria, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany, led by David Jones, head of department at the KiTZ and the DKFZ, will receive funding of 2,000,000 euros. As part of BrainTAP, at least 15 new promising therapeutic approaches to combat brain tumors will be systematically tested on patient-specific laboratory models of childhood tumors in order to initiate clinical trials. To develop such tailor-made tumor models, cancer cells from individual young cancer patients are transferred to mice, for example. These laboratory models are provided by ITCC-P4 gGmbH, which was recently founded on the initiative of the DKFZ and KiTZ. "There are hardly any modern treatment options for childhood brain tumors because too few clinical trials are initiated. With this project, we want to create the conditions for new drugs to have a chance of being approved for young patients," says David Jones.

The EUROPE project (Exploring unknown relapse origins in paediatric Ependymoma) focuses on ependymomas, the third most common type of malignant brain tumor in children. When ependymomas relapse, the chances of survival for the affected children are low. In the EUROPE project, which is led by Kristian Pajtler, research group leader at the KiTZ and DKFZ and senior physician at the UKHD, systematic investigations of tumor material are intended to uncover the underlying cellular mechanisms in relapses and identify new weak points in tumor biology. "Through our project, we want to create the conditions for identifying new drugs to help children whose cancer comes back," explains Kristian Pajtler. Four centers from Germany and the Netherlands are involved in EUROPE, which is being funded with 878,000 euros.

"We are very proud that so many of our projects have been selected for funding and would like to thank Fight Kids Cancer for the opportunity to improve the situation of children and young people with cancer in the long term," says a delighted Stefan Pfister.

A picture is available for download at Caption: The Hopp Children's Tumor Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) will receive around 6.5 million euros from the "Fight Kids Cancer" program for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for childhood brain tumors.

Note on the use of image material for press releases

Use is free of charge. The German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) permits one-time use in connection with reporting on the topic of the press release or on the DKFZ in general. Please indicate as picture credits: “Source: Marius Stark/KiTZ”The image material may only be passed on to third parties after prior consultation with the DKFZ press office (Tel. 06221 42 2854, e-mail: Use for commercial purposes is prohibited.

The Hopp Children's Tumor Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) The "Hopp Children's Tumor Center Heidelberg" (KiTZ) is a pediatric oncology facility of the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg University Hospital and Heidelberg University. Like the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, which focuses on adult oncology, the KiTZ is based on the US model of the so-called "Comprehensive Cancer Centers" (CCC) in terms of type and structure. The KiTZ is both a therapy and research center for oncological and hematological diseases in children and adolescents. Its aim is to scientifically investigate the biology of childhood cancer and severe blood disorders and to closely link promising research approaches with patient care - from diagnosis and treatment through to aftercare. Children with cancer, especially those for whom no established treatment options are available, receive an individual treatment plan at the KiTZ, which experts from various disciplines draw up together in tumor conferences. Many young patients can take part in clinical trials and thus gain access to new treatment options. The KiTZ thus serves as a role model for the transfer of research findings from the laboratory to the clinic.


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