Creating new diagnostic procedures and therapeutic options in order to help children with cancer – with this goal in mind the University Hospital Heidelberg and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) founded the “Hopp Children’s Tumor Center at the NCT Heidelberg”(KiTZ), a therapeutic research center for pediatric oncology and hematology. The Dietmar Hopp Foundation will contribute 20 Million Euro to the new construction, announced SAP founder and patron Dietmar Hopp at a press conference on November 23th.
The news of their two-year old daughter Annika suffering from leukemia came as a shock to the Obieglo Family. Today, four years later the family can breathe a sigh of relief: Annika is considered to be cured. Thanks to an intensive therapy, her leukemia was completely eliminated. The diagnosis of cancer confronts children and their families with an unimaginable burden.
"The battle against cancer is an important motivation of my foundation work. The idea that my sons might develop cancer has always been unbearable for me, especially when I was a young father. My family is not affected but I want to help families whose children have to cope with cancer," said Dietmar Hopp. "I am moved by the fact that I can help to set up this highly specialized center".
The construction of the children's tumor center will cost around 40 million Euro in total. In addition to the Dietmar Hopp Foundation, other sponsors have already promised their support to the "Hopp Children's Tumor Center at NCT Heidelberg", short "KiTZ". "We are grateful for everyone who has made it possible that we are now able to enter the construction planning phase with this financial foundation," says Professor Dr. Guido Adler, Chairman of the Board and Chief Medical Director of the University Hospital. "About a quarter of the costs for the construction of the children's center are still not covered yet. However, we are confident that we will be able to find more supporters and should be able to start building in 2017."
Targeted therapy for pediatric cancer patients
At the KiTZ, clinic and research will be working together under one roof and help children affected by cancer faster and with more targeted approaches. Professor Dr. Michael Baumann, Chairman and Scientific Director of the DKFZ, explains: "Doctors and scientists from the University Hospital and the DKFZ are already cooperating in order to take better care of our cancer patients. At the KiTZ, we will be able to transfer our scientific findings in pediatric oncology, which receive considerable attention worldwide, into more tailored diagnostic and treatment procedures more rapidly."
The KiTZ's cornerstone is comprehensive medical care for young patients. "At the KiTZ, children and adolescents with oncological and hematological disorders will receive individual personalized outpatient, inpatient and day-care - from diagnostics to therapy and follow-up," explains Professor Dr. Andreas Kulozik, Medical Director of the Clinic for Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and Immunology at the University Hospital Heidelberg. Kulozik also emphasizes another aspect of the KiTZ: Looking after the young patients' natural desire for movement and leisure activities. "It's important that life is not brought to a standstill during cancer treatment - especially when a child needs to activate all his reserves to defeat this illness, together with the doctors," says Kulozik. In addition to the physical condition, the patients' mental well-being is prioritized as well at the KiTZ. Spaces for physical activities and music therapy for distraction and recovery in-house as well as outside have been created. "We are currently refining the concept to meet the holistic demands of children with cancer," summarizes Kulozik. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the KiTZ, along with Professor Dr. Stefan Pfister and Professor Dr. Olaf Witt. Witt is head of the section "Pediatric Brain Tumors and Individualized Pediatric Oncology" (ZIPO) at the Clinic for Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and Immunology as well as the Clinical Cooperation Unit "Pediatric Oncology" at the DKFZ. Pfister is Head of the Department "Pediatric Neurooncology" at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Senior Physician at the Heidelberg University Hospital.
Clinical research for better diagnosis and treatment strategies
Research is the second most important pillar of the KiTZ. "In order to increase the healing potential of children with cancer, it is important to better understand the molecular causes of the disease in each individual patient and to derive specific diagnostic and therapeutic procedures from this understanding for the patient," says Witt. "At the KiTZ, we are able to further advance innovative clinical trials so that new therapies will reach our patients faster. Even though nearly 80 percent of children with cancer are now treated successfully, the healing rates have been stagnating for many years. Cancer is still the second most common cause of death among children and adolescents under the age 18 in Germany. “In pediatric oncology we are still missing medical concepts specifically tailored to young patients," explains Pfister. "To change this, we want to further extend pre-clinical research with about 20 research groups, looking for new keys for the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases." And he adds: "Helping children with cancer, for whom there have been no suitable therapies so far, is the goal that keeps us going."
* The NCT was founded in Heidelberg in 2004 as the first "Comprehensive Cancer Center" in Germany in cooperation with the German Cancer Research Center and the University Hospital Heidelberg.