AACR Honours Harald zur Hausen

In his early work, zur Hausen demonstrated that Burkitt’s lymphoma cells contained Epstein-Barr viral DNA, thus proving that viruses can persist in human tumor cells, and are associated with tumor growth. Zur Hausen and his colleagues were also able to demonstrate the association of Epstein-Barr virus in epithelial cells of nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

In the 1970s and 1980s, zur Hausen provided the key investigative findings that led to the recognition that certain types of HPV are the etiologic agents of cervical cancer. This observation and the detailed studies that followed provided the basis for the extensive epidemiologic studies that independently validated the importance of these findings worldwide. Zur Hausen's subsequent research on the immunogenicity of this virus set the stage for the development of a vaccine.

“Dr. zur Hausen is responsible for a body of scientific research that laid the foundation for one of the most important events of the past year in cancer research and public health – the approval of an effective vaccine for HPV,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), AACR chief executive officer. “We expect this vaccine will lead to a marked decrease in the incidence of cervical cancer and ultimately protect countless young women from this disease.”

Zur Hausen’s work has also linked HPV to several other cancers including laryngeal carcinoma, penile carcinoma, and epidermal dysplasia. He has received several national and international awards for his research, including the Robert Koch Award, the Charles S. Mott Prize of the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Award, the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine, and the Charles Rudolphe Brupbacher Award.

MEDICA.de; Source: American Association for Cancer Research