Each of us harbors the risk of cancer within us ...
... from the day of our birth onwards. Today, however, a diagnosis of cancer is no longer
a death sentence – or even a terrible fate. Thanks to the research being performed every
day by thousands of scientists around the globe, great progress has been made in the field
of oncology, the medical discipline concerned with the treatment of cancer.
Because there are more than 100 kinds of cancer and a wide range of causes, however,
there will never be a single treatment or "magic bullet" that works in all cases. Instead,
the fight against cancer remains a multidisciplinary effort. Although many cancers are not
as threatening as they once were, thanks to advances in the medical and biological
sciences, others are still highly menacing.
By the time doctors discover cancer, the tumor – along with the risk factors predisposing to its development – has usually
been growing for many years. Consequently, we need markedly improved methods allowing us to detect tumors much
earlier than is possible today.
For this purpose we need a large number of highly sensitive methods that can identify single cancer cells – as well as their
precursor cells and stem cells – and can therefore be employed much earlier than, for example, the diagnostic imaging
methods used today. The earlier cancer cells are discovered, the smaller is the risk they pose and the greater is the chance
of a cure. To combat cancer more effectively, researchers have to carry the battle down to the molecular level.
In the search for the molecular causes of cancer, the basic biomedical research carried out during the past 30 years with the
aid of modern genetics and cellular biology has resulted in momentous discoveries. We now know, for example, that cancer
is genetic in origin but is usually not inherited; we know that the risk of developing cancer is passed on along with a learned
lifestyle; and we know which disorders or defects occur which can lead to a particular malignancy.
Despite all these advances, we are still helpless in the face of many types of cancer: unfortunately, we still know far too little.
If we want to understand how cancer develops and how it can be prevented, we need to penetrate even deeper into the cell's
secrets; we need to track down cancer before it reaches a stage necessitating treatment.
We cannot expect basic research to produce miracles. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: unless cancer research continues –
and takes an even more painstaking look at all aspects of carcinogenesis – no further breakthroughs will occur in the fight
against cancer. We have not yet conquered cancer – but we are making progress. You decide how large the advances made
by biomedical research in this area will be – with your donation! At the internationally recognized Institute of Cell Biology
(Cancer Research), in particular, the search for tumor stem cells is underway in close collaboration with many other research
institutions and hospitals. Within the framework of this collaboration, new methods are continually being developed to describe
the processes mentioned above on the level of individual cells.