In spite of medical progress there are still incurable diseases. AIDS or dementia are only two examples amongst many others. And even if scientists have developed therapies successfully, research is further needed to improve the possibilities of treatment. This is exactly what the health topics at the Helmholtz Association are about. „We introduce research results which stand are about to trespass from the lab to clinical everyday life“, explains Thomas Gazlig, leading press spokesman of the Helmholtz Association
A vaccination against cervical cancer has already crossed this threshold. In Germany, 700,000 girls have been inoculated up to now. The vaccine was developed in the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) Heidelberg which makes up the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres with 14 other facilities. However, there are still many open questions regarding this vaccination. „It is the first protection by vaccination against a tumour disease, but we still do not know anything about the long-term effects“, explains professor Stefan Joos, head of research section health of the Helmholtz Association.
Moreover, Helmholtz scientists deal with the advancement of the vaccine. Up to now it is only effective when the virus has not infected a girl. „Maybe we can use the vaccine also therapeutically in future“, says Joos. It could not be used only for prevention, but also to the treatment of an HPV infection. In addition, it is conceivable to develop vaccines against other HPV types, Joos explains. At MEDICA Congress 2008 visitors will learn more about the chances, but also the risks of this vaccination.
Straight Attack on the Tumour
Radiotherapy is another method against cancer. During the MEDICA Congress researchers will report especially about the radiotherapy with heavy ions. These ions have an especially big mass. Due to this physical property heavy ions can be better accelerated. This entails that they cross the tissue as a bundle of rays. The exposure of neighbouring tissue by lateral dispersion, as for example with gamma rays, is very low. In addition, heavy ions have a defined reach in the tissue and unfold the whole effect only at the end of this reach. The result: The tumour can be destroyed more specifically.
An accelerator system for heavy ions is located at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research at Darmstadt, Germany, which is also member of the Helmholtz Association. „The procedure is new and was developed by the researchers in Darmstadt “, explains the press spokesman Gazlig. At the moment, however, the therapy is used only for combatting rare diseases. „Above all, we can treat Chordoma - malign tumours in the skullbase - with this method“, explains Joos. This also applies to tumours of cartilage tissue, for example in hands and feet. Whether the heavy ion radiotherapy will be applied also with other cancer types in future, is still target of investigations.
Early Diagnosis of Demetia
Scientists of the Research Centre Jülich, Germany, will report on news about the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, for example Alzheimer. „There is a good chance to slow down the process of degeneration when only few cerebral cells are damaged as is the case in early stages of these diseases“, says Gazlig. Imaging plays an important role here. At the moment though, it is difficult to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. New devices are of special interest in future in the interface between brain research and clinical everyday life.
The event „News from health research of the Helmholtz Association“ takes place on Friday, 21st of November, 2008 between 10 and 13 o'clock as well as between 14:30 and 17:30 o'clock in the CCD.Süd, 1st upper floor (in German).
An overview of all events of the MEDICA Congress you can see here