Scheidereit and Dörken Honoured

Prof Bernd Dörken
© Charité Berlin

The researcher and the clinician have "contributed significantly to the understanding of the molecular causes of Hodgkin's lymphoma with their excellent research work, which was in part done in close cooperation, and have thus enabled the development of new therapeutic approaches", as was stated in the announcement of the award.

The exact processes involved in the mechanisms of Hodgkin's lymphoma whereby healthy white blood cells become malignant are not known. Until a few years ago, it was also unclear which molecular mechanisms contribute to the development of this cancer of the lymph glands.

However, in 1996, Scheidereit and Dörken discovered the gene switch NF-kappaB in the nuclei of the Hodgkin Reed-Sternberg cells of Hodgkin patients. It became evident that this gene regulator triggers the malignant cell growth in Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Prof Claus Scheidereit
© MDC Berlin-Buch

In the malignantly altered cells of Hodgkin's lymphoma, the NF-kappa-B is constantly in the cell nucleus. The reason, as the researchers discovered, is that certain, permanently activated enzymes switch off inhibitor proteins that normally retain NF-kappaB in the cell plasma. Furthermore, they were able to show that, in a portion of the patients, the inhibitors are defective due to mutations.

Up until now, Hodgkin's lymphoma was treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The work of Scheidereit and Dörken has now provided the basis for the development of new therapeutic approaches. In pre-clinical studies, different substances are currently being tested as to their capability to directly or indirectly block IKK activity. It remains to be seen whether this alone will develop into a new and more effective therapy, or whether these approaches will supplement and improve chemo and radiation therapy.; Source: Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin (MDC) Berlin-Buch