Keep the Fire Burning – our year 2021

Dear readers,

despite the challenges in the second year of the pandemic, we at NCT Heidelberg managed to keep the fire. This also shows this view of our year 2021 and, for example, the four research projects that were selected for the Donations Against Cancer 2022 program and are financed by donations.

In the coming year, the concept of the NCT - leading cancer research and clinical practice working together - will be expanded to four other top locations in Germany. In addition: We will inaugurate the new part of the building here at NCT Heidelberg. Our work will benefit from the larger network and the spatial expansion in Heidelberg.

We trust in our cooperation and our common fire for the work at NCT. Together we look positively to the future.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2022!


NCT Direktorium

Managing directorate of NCT Heidelberg
Prof. Peter Lichter, Prof. Jürgen Debus,
Prof. Stefan Fröhling, Prof. Dirk Jäger
(f.l.t.r.; photographed 2019)

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Extension of the NCT building in Heidelberg

The steadily increasing number of patients as well as numerous translational and clinical research activities require the extension of the NCT building in Heidelberg.


The extension is financed by a grant of 20 million euros from the state of Baden-Württemberg to the DKFZ. This will increases the building area by 2,566 to 8,131 square meters. Since mid-2019, the laboratory, patient and office areas have been enlarged and the basement has been expanded to include imaging and liquid biobanks. The expansion of the NCT building will be complete in autumn 2022.

NCT network: ongoing strategy phase

During the ten-year National Decade of Cancer, four more NCT locations will be set up nationwide in Berlin, Cologne / Essen, Tübingen / Stuttgart-Ulm and Würzburg with partners in Erlangen, Regensburg and Augsburg.


The DKFZ, the NCT Heidelberg and Dresden and the new locations have been working on a joint concept for the expanded NCT network since the beginning of 2021. At the end of 2021, this process will be completed with the creation of a strategy proposal. An international committee then assesses the application.

Like the already existing NCT in Heidelberg and Dresden, the new NCT locations intend to combine top-quality patient-related research and oncological patient care under one roof and within the framework of innovative translational and clinical trials.

Cancer Research

The NCT Heidelberg stands for personalized cancer medicine. For example, molecular or immunological examinations can detect changes in the tumor that are important for the development and treatment of cancer. Our goal is to use the latest knowledge to develop tailor-made and precise treatment processes for every patient.

Development of new study designs

At the DKFZ and NCT Heidelberg, five departments are involved in the DART project Cancer Core Europe (CCE). The EU-funded CCE-DART (CCE Building Data Rich Clinical Trials) project aims to establish cancer trials that are more flexible and easier to conduct than traditional clinical trials. It should also be possible to adapt the treatment individually during the course of the clinical trial. The experts involved from the seven European cancer centers of the CCE consortium and four other partner organizations rely on innovative technology and modern digital platforms. »Read more

New journal

Dr. Nektarios A. Valous (NCT Heidelberg / DKFZ), Dr. Inka Zörnig (NCT Heidelberg / UKHD) and Dr. Niels Halama (NCT Heidelberg / DKFZ) are the founder and editor of the journal "ImmunoInformatics", an international journal for publications at the interface between computer science, physics, mathematics and experimental immunology. »Read more

Breast cancer

Women have an increased risk of breast cancer if their relatives have already developed the disease. However, the risk can also be greater if first-degree family members have another type of cancer, as a study by a team of scientists at the NCT Heidelberg, the DKFZ and UKHD as well as international colleagues showed. The researchers therefore recommend starting mammography a few years earlier than usual in affected women. »Read more...


Neuroblastomas, malignant tumors that predominantly occur in infants and young children, arise from cells in the embryonic nervous system. The diseases are extremely different. Neuroblastomas can progress unstoppably or spontaneously regress. Scientists from the Hopp Children's Tumor Center Heidelberg (KiTZ), the DKFZ, the University of Heidelberg and the NCT Heidelberg show that some malignant neuroblastomas use a special trick to avoid cell death: They lengthen their chromosome ends using a special mechanism. This clearly distinguishes them from other high-risk neuroblastomas and those with a favorable process. The results could help to provide new therapy concepts especially for this subgroup. »Read more...

Rare cancers

Rare cancers are often difficult to treat. Scientists from the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK) and at NCT in Heidelberg and Dresden were able to prove for the first time that those affected with rare tumor diseases benefit from a comprehensive molecular analysis. Based on several hundred biomarkers, a team of physicians made evidence-based treatment recommendations in 88 percent of the cases, some of which included new, experimental therapy methods. The recommendations were implemented in around a third of the patients, which was reflected in a significantly improved survival rate compared to standard therapies. »Read more...


Sarcomas are rare mesenchymal tumors that arise from connective tissue, bone, or cartilage. They are characterized by great histological diversity and some entities lack defining histopathological features. The diagnosis of sarcomas is therefore burdened with a certain rate of misclassification. Heidelberg scientists and physicians developed an automated algorithm for sarcoma classification based on DNA methylation profiles, which has great potential for sarcoma diagnosis. »Read more...

Colon cancer

A team led by scientists at the NCT in Heidelberg and Dresden and from the DKFZ has discovered a new molecular point of attack against particularly aggressive forms of colon cancer. The results can serve as a basis for the development of new active substances. »Read more...

Skin cancer

Wherever diagnostic imaging is needed, artificial intelligence (AI) methods are used more and more frequently. Scientists at the DKFZ, the University Dermatology Clinic at UKHD and at NCT Heidelberg have checked the reliability of adaptive algorithms for differentiating between black skin cancer and benign birthmarks. In doing so, they discovered that even small deviations in the image acquisition could lead to a misdiagnosis by the computer-aided systems. The researchers therefore advocate always keeping an eye on the monitoring of automated diagnostics by experienced dermatologists. »Read more...

CAR-T-cell construct Ide-Cel effectively and safely

Many multiple myeloma patients relapse. There is therefore a great need for innovative treatment options. CAR-T cell therapy has shown promise in multiple myeloma. In February, physicians from NCT Heidelberg published the results of a phase 2 study on the efficacy and safety of the CAR-T cell construct Ide-Cel in heavily pretreated patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma in the New England Journal of Medicine. »Read more...

Molecular analysis in advanced breast cancer

The aim of the CATCH study is to provide patients with advanced breast cancer with individual treatment options, some of which go beyond the standard therapy. The evaluation of the first results shows that a considerable number of patients benefit from the molecular analysis. »Read more...

Promoting physical activity in young cancer patients

The EU research project FORTEe under the motto "Get strong to fight child cancer" aims to improve the quality of life of children with cancer through exercise therapy. 16 partner institutions from eight European countries are cooperating, including the NCT Heidelberg and the Hopp Children's Tumor Center Heidelberg (KiTZ), to examine the effectiveness of exercise therapy and digital health technologies for promoting exercise in cancer therapy in young patients. »Read more...

Mutation-specific vaccine against malignant brain tumors

Cancer vaccinations can help the body to fight cancer. Mutations in the tumor genome often lead to cancer-typical proteins. A vaccine can alert the patient's immune system to such mutated proteins. Physicians and researchers from Heidelberg and Mannheim tested a mutation-specific vaccine against malignant brain tumors for the first time in a clinical trial. The vaccination proved to be safe and triggered the desired immune reactions in the tumor tissue. »Read more...

CCE Summer School in Translational Cancer Research 2021

More than 650 scientists and physicians from all over the world attended the Cancer Core Europe (CCE) Summer School in Translational Cancer Research from 13. to 14. October 2021.

Interactive formats, workshops and numerous specialist lectures enabled the participants to expand their knowledge of various aspects of cancer research and to make new contacts. The Summer School 2021 was jointly hosted by CCE and DKFZ and organized by NCT Heidelberg. Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Summer School is Stefan Fröhling, Managing Director of NCT Heidelberg and Head of the Translational Medical Oncology Division at the DKFZ. »Read more...

First Heidelberg Fellows Day on clinical cancer research

Under the motto “Exchange. Network. Collaborate”, the first Heidelberg Fellows Day on clinical cancer research took place on July 5, 2021. The virtual event was an initiative of the Heidelberg School of Oncology of the NCT Heidelberg and was carried out in close cooperation with its partner programs at the DKFZ and the Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg.

Over twenty fellows had the opportunity to present their research projects from various key areas of translational cancer research in a poster presentation or a short lecture. In addition, there were various opportunities for exchange and space for discussions with the speakers. »Read more...

Patient Care

The NCT Heidelberg combines patient care and patient-related research under one roof. The special thing about the NCT is its comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach. The NCT Heidelberg acts as a central portal for all cancer patients, combines all oncological activities at the UKHD and translational research at the DKFZ and coordinates numerous oncological studies at the DKFZ and the UKHD.

Palliative medicine alleviates suffering and stress in patients with advanced diseases. Because an aging society needs more palliative care, the UKHD set up a new department for palliative medicine this year. In addition, an outpatient clinic with consultation hours was set up at NCT Heidelberg. »Read more...

The German Cancer Society (DKG) has recertified the Thoraxklinik at the UKHD and the NCT Heidelberg as a lung cancer center. A new addition was the certification of the mesothelioma unit. This recognized the professional competence in the treatment of pleural tumors. »Read more...

Many cancer patients would like greater consideration of naturopathic complementary procedures in medicine and care. Some of these procedures can have a positive impact on quality of life and alleviate symptoms. This has been proven for yoga, acupuncture, individual herbal medicines, dietary supplements and aromatherapy, for example. However, too little is known about the interactions between chemotherapeutics and herbal medicinal products or dietary supplements, for example. In order to help patients in this uncertain situation to make a good decision with well-founded advice, the integrative project CCC was launched. Four oncological centers in Baden-Württemberg (Freiburg, Heidelberg, Tübingen, Ulm) are developing and evaluating a specific counseling service for complementary medicine. »Read more...



Over 40 virtual events and seminars, around 5,000 participants - there was an extensive program of events for researchers, physician and patients at NCT Heidelberg in 2021. In addition, for a good cause, numerous participants were actively involved in the NCT-RUN and the charity Move Against Cancer.


On April 17th, the 16th Heidelberg Cancer Patients Day took place with 400 participants - for the first time in virtual form. Six specialist lectures provided information on current research results and the latest treatment strategies for various types of cancer. In addition, the Cancer Information Service of the DKFZ and various self-help groups presented themselves and were available to the participants for an exchange. »Read more...

Over 7,000 runners took part in the 10th NCT-RUN against Cancer from July 2nd to 4th. As in the previous year, this year's NCT-RUN took place virtually. The great feedback and the response in the social media made it clear that the virtual run lived up to its motto - NCT-RUNning against cancer. Alone. Together! In total, the participants collected over 125,000 kilometers on all seven continents. »Read more...

The online charity campaign Move against Cancer took place from September 10th to October 10th: More than 1,200 participants practiced 17,517 hours - whether rowing, ball sports, yoga or other sporting activities - and donated 55,000 euros privately or with the support from companies for cancer patients at NCT Heidelberg. The charity, initiated jointly by the Stiftung Leben mit Krebs, NCT Heidelberg and the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung, motivated people to exercise with the help of an app. »Read more...

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Save the date 2022

February 19, 2022: 39th Spring Symposium

April 2nd, 2022: 17th Heidelberg Cancer Patients Day

July 1, 2022: NCT-RUNning against Cancer

October 16, 2022: Cancer Core Europe Summer School in Translational Cancer Research