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12.06.2015 09:55

40 years of the Wilhelm Sander Foundation

Bernhard Knappe Press and public relations
Wilhelm Sander Foundation

The Wilhelm Sander Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in Germany, celebrates its 40th anniversary on June 12, 2015. The Foundation Board welcomes around 230 invited guests to the ceremony in Munich, including the German Nobel Prize in Medicine Harald zur Hausen from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg. With more than 2000 projects funded since 1975 and around 220 million euros in funding, the Wilhelm Sander Foundation plays an outstanding role in Germany's medical research funding. At the ceremony, three young researchers will be awarded the Wilhelm Sander Foundation's sponsorship award, which is endowed with a total of 40,000 euros.

220 million euros for medical research / Outstanding importance of the Wilhelm Sander Foundation in promoting medical research in Germany / Ceremony in Munich

Neustadt an der Donau / Munich - The Wilhelm Sander Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in Germany, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015. In a ceremony, the Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees welcome around 230 invited guests, including many top researchers and the German Nobel Prize in Medicine, Harald zur Hausen from the German Cancer Research Center.

40 years of the Wilhelm Sander Foundation, that means over 2,000 projects funded since 1975 with around 220 million euros for medical research.
The Wilhelm Sander Foundation thus plays an outstanding role in promoting medical research in Germany.

18.5 million for projects 2013/2014

With its high funding volume, the Wilhelm Sander Foundation has become an integral part of the research landscape in the field of medicine: it paid out around 18.5 million euros in the two years 2013 and 2014 alone.
Projects of the Wilhelm Sander Foundation cover a wide spectrum in the area of ​​cancer research, from interdisciplinary therapy units at university hospitals to patient-oriented and experimental research.

The focus is on the patient

In recent years, the focus of the Foundation's activities has been on projects aimed at the fastest possible application of scientific knowledge in therapy and diagnostics, so-called translational research topics.

Researchers and teams at the German Cancer Research Center Heidelberg (DKFZ), the Robert Koch Institute Berlin and numerous universities receive support from the Wilhelm Sander Foundation.

In addition, there are Wilhelm Sander therapy units at three Bavarian university hospitals, in which doctors from various disciplines work together to develop therapy concepts that are as individual as possible.

Patients, relatives, but also resident doctors can obtain interdisciplinary advice in these therapy units: in Würzburg on multiple myeloma, a subgroup of lymph node cancer, in Regensburg on neuro-oncology, where brain tumors are treated, and at the Klinikum rechts der Isar of the Technical University of Munich on bone- and soft tissue sarcomas, which are tumors of connective tissue.

Munich: Nobel laureate Harald zur Hausen gives a lecture

At the ceremony on June 12th in Munich, the German Nobel Prize winner, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Harald zur Hausen from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg expected.

Zur Hausen was one of the first members of the Wilhelm Sander Foundation's scientific advisory board as early as 1976. In 2008 he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering the link between papilloma viruses and cervical cancer.
The world-famous researcher is still concerned with the role of viruses in the development of cancer, among other things, infections caused by viruses in food could play a role. This is what the keynote lecture Harald zur Hausen will give on June 12th is about: "Cancer from meat and dairy products?"

Sponsorship award for young researchers: 40,000 euros

On its anniversary, the foundation is awarding the Wilhelm Sander Prize to three young researchers for the first time, endowed with a total of 40,000 euros.

The award goes to projects on breast cancer at the Women's Clinic at the Technical University of Munich and on the development of metastases at the Institute for Molecular Biology at the University of Mainz.

The winners:

Dr. Stefanie Avril and Dr. Holger Bronger (project leader), TU Munich, for her project on attractants in cells, which are supposed to help improve the immune attack on cancer cells. Because in breast cancer, certain immune cells can attack cancerous tissue - if they succeed in smuggling them into the tumor. This is achieved with the help of the body's own molecules, which act like attractants and show the killer cells of the immune system the way. The group around Dr. Holger Bronger at the Technical University of Munich showed how these attractants can be increased in a targeted manner. Title of the research project: "Improvement of the anti-HER2 therapy of breast cancer by increasing the CXCL9-mediated lymphocyte infiltration"

Dr. Vijay K. Tiwari, Institute for Molecular Biology at the University of Mainz, for his project on metastases. Because cancer cells can migrate in the body, which is how the dreaded metastases develop. They are often more aggressive than the original tumor. But cells are actually true to their location - it is still a mystery that they can suddenly detach themselves from their association and become lodged in completely different organs. Researchers around the world are currently trying to solve it. The special property of tumor cells requires massive changes: They have to give up their shape and also loosen their established connections with neighboring cells. Only then can they remove themselves from the cell structure and reach other parts of the body with the bloodstream. Here they attach themselves and divide - a new tumor develops, the dreaded metastasis. Dr. Vijay K. Tiwari and his team at the Institute for Molecular Biology at the University of Mainz have found out which special signaling pathway ensures that the cancer cells remain in their new, transformed shape. They are now also investigating whether blocking this JNK signaling pathway could prevent metastases in mice, for example. Title of the research project: "Epigenetic regulation of the epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) in metastatic progressive tumors"

Laudation: Prof. Dr. Udo Löhrs

Further program items of the ceremony are greetings from Prof. Dr. Michael Göring, Federal Association of German Foundations, as well as Georg Eisenreich, MdL, State Secretary in the Bavarian Ministry for Education and Culture, Science and Art.
The internationally known singing ensemble "Die Singphoniker" is responsible for the musical design.

The foundation - figures and data

Death of the founder Wilhelm Sander: December 31, 1973
Establishment of the foundation: December 11, 1974
Medical research funding since 1975
Focus: cancer research
Assets in 2015: around 300 million euros
Funding amount: around 220 million euros since 1975

The Wilhelm Sander therapy units

Wilhelm Sander therapy unit for bone and soft tissue sarcomas
at the medical center on the right of the Isar of the Technical University of Munich
Opening: 2010, funding of up to 3 million euros
Teleradiology portal for general practitioners; Five accompanying research projects on innovative diagnostic and therapeutic methods

Wilhelm Sander therapy unit for neuro-oncology
at the University Hospital Regensburg
Opening: 2011, funding of up to 3 million euros
Professorship for neuro-oncology as well as a department for neuropathology, competence especially in brain metastases, outpatient, day clinic and inpatient care, advice to external patients and doctors

Wilhelm Sander therapy unit for interdisciplinary myeloma treatment
at the University Hospital Würzburg
Start of funding: 2014, funding of 3 million euros over five years
Special treatment methods, including new antibodies, new methods from orthopedics and radiation therapy; the Würzburg University Hospital with its Wilhelm Sander therapy unit, which specializes in multiple myeloma, is already one of the leading centers for lymph node cancer in Europe.

Chosen projects:

Researchers at the Robert Koch Institute are developing vaccination methods against tumors

Vaccination against existing tumors has so far not been successful - a working group at the Robert Koch Institute Berlin has succeeded in modifying certain immune cells so that they eliminate tumor cells, just as viruses do in the body after a vaccination:
Richard Kroczek's team used an animal model to show how killer T cells can effectively multiply in the body and specifically activated so that they attack tumors.
The researchers use completely normal immune mechanisms that work in the same way in mice and humans. The mechanism shown in animals can therefore be transferred to humans: vaccination against cancer now seems to be within reach. Funding by the Wilhelm Sander Foundation: around 390,000 euros

Death after a bone marrow transplant: Swiss and Freiburg researchers reveal the causes

Blood cancer patients often experience a dangerous side effect after bone marrow transplantation: instead of the cancer cells, the donor's fresh immune cells attack healthy cells in the patient's skin, liver or intestine.
This attack is responsible for the majority of all deaths after stem cell transplantation - almost every second patient does not yet survive a bone marrow transplant.

Researcher around Professor Dr. Lars E. French at the University Hospital Zurich and Professor Dr. Robert Zeiser at the Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg have now discovered the causes - of all things, they lie in the routine preparation of the patient.
Because in order to destroy the sick blood system in the patient's body, the patients are treated with gamma radiation. As has been shown in experiments with mice, this radiation damages the mucous membrane in the intestine and the intestinal wall, among other things. This then becomes more permeable for bacteria that occur naturally in the intestine and are actually harmless there. But if they get deeper into the tissue, that can change. Their metabolic products also get deep into the intestinal mucosa because of the radiation damage - where they actually don't belong.

The deeper-lying intestinal cells respond to the invading bacteria and pollutants with the release of inflammatory messengers and massive damage signals. After the transplant, it is precisely these that attract the donor's fresh immune cells.
The research now shows new therapy options that could prevent many deaths. Funding by the Wilhelm Sander Foundation: around 35,000 euros

Man with many facets: Wilhelm Sander

Wilhelm Sander, 1897-1973, was born in Roth near Nuremberg as the son of a doctor. He was supposed to become a doctor himself, but first enrolled in agriculture, then studied economics and political science and also completed a few semesters at the commercial college. Ultimately he did not graduate, but became an entrepreneur in 1923: In Nuremberg he first founded a company for string products and later manufactured medical sutures.
During the Second World War, Sander moved the company headquarters to Neustadt an der Donau and was able to expand his fortune due to medical needs during the war.
Even before the currency reform of 1948, he began buying houses and land, and from the late 1950s he built apartments on a large scale. When he died, Sander owned over 4,000 apartments in Germany and Switzerland.

As a personality, Wilhelm Sander had rough edges - he was a passionate hunter, enjoyed breakfast in bed in the morning and loved good, hearty cuisine. At the same time, he was extremely sober in dealing, legendarily economical and also solitary: he remained unmarried all his life and left no children behind.
However, Wilhelm Sander came into contact with cancer through his immediate environment: Karoline Burkhart, his housekeeper for many years, died of multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer. In addition, one night in 1964, Sander himself discovered a lump on his neck and feared it might be cancer. The swelling later turned out to be harmless, but the shock ran deep - immediately afterwards the entrepreneur made his will.
In it he stipulated that his assets should be transferred to a foundation - after the horror of the night it should become a foundation for the prevention and control of diseases.

After the surprising death of Wilhelm Sander on New Year's Eve 1973, the estate administrators first had to deal with a few problems: The headstrong entrepreneur left a number of open questions about taxes and shareholdings.
The foundation was finally established on December 11, 1974. During this period, the estate administrators settled tax matters, and so Sander's extensive fortune was transferred to the foundation. Since then, the Wilhelm Sander Foundation has developed into one of the most important foundations in the field of medical research funding.

Additional Information:

Payments for funding projects: The foundation can keep its funding amounts stable at a high level. The basis for this is the real estate assets of the founder

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