The MSNZ Frankfurt is closely connected to the Frankfurt Cancer Institute (FCI). In an iterative process “from bedside to bench and back”, Clinician Scientists and Medical Scientists at the FCI are investigating clinical phenomena such as therapy response or resistance by intelligent combinations of molecular profiling, mechanistic research, preclinical and clinical evaluation. In this way, tailor-made diagnostic and targeted therapeutic approaches are developed that enable individualized, mechanism-based cancer therapy.
The research program of the FCI comprises five thematically interconnected areas that represent the whole translational cycle under the guiding idea of “turning molecular information into novel cancer therapies”:
- Molecular diagnostics and biomarkers
Identification of novel molecular markers via high throughput technologies (e.g. genomics, metabolomics, proteomics) and validation in clinical trials.
- Molecular mechanisms of tumor pathogenesis
Exploration of the molecular mechanisms of tumorigenesis, tumor progression and therapy response using structural and cell biological as well as biochemical know-how with the goal to explain oncogenic signaling networks and to identify novel therapeutic target structures.
- Preclinical models
Development of meaningful preclinical in vivo and in vitro models for the validation of the identified target structures. This includes patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models and tumor organoids.
- Drug development and novel therapeutic approaches
Generation of novel small molecules and advanced cellular products for immunotherapy using validated target structures. Structural biologists, chemists and pharmacists of the Goethe University, the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) Frankfurt, the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute (PEI) and the Institute for Transfusion Medicine closely collaborate in this program.
- Clinical trials
Validation of diagnostics and novel therapeutic approaches in clinical trials.
Within these areas, the Clinician Scientists and Medical Scientists funded by the MSNZ are working in interdisciplinary project teams with clinicians, biochemists, biologist, chemists and bioinformaticians to address ambitious research questions. This pool of complementary expertise and the close integration of all stages of the value chain is the major driving force behind the translational research activities in Frankfurt.
In the five research areas of the FCI, the MSNZ is funding interdisciplinary positions at all career levels:
The MSNZ encourages interest in medical research during medical school by awarding scholarships for experimental doctoral theses in translational cancer research. In addition to financial support for up to twelve months, the students participate in the scientific program of the MSNZ. In this way, they get to know Clinician Scientists in specialist medical training and can make plans on how to best integrate cancer research in their future careers.
The MSNZ supports Clinician Scientists in cancer research at all career levels as they link clinical practice to translational research. During medical specialist training, the MSNZ provides funding for twelve-month research rotations with 100% protected time so Clinician Scientists can focus entirely on their translational research project. This phase is followed by two years with part-time exemption from clinical duties (50 %) in order to ensure continued clinical training and the achievement of research goals. The exemption from clinical duties is contractually fixed to ensure the reliable and predictable integration of clinical and scientific training. In addition, the MSNZ offers a structured framework that promotes interdisciplinarity and encourages development of scientific independence.
Additionally, Advanced Clinician Scientists who have (almost) completed their medical specialist training are also eligible to apply for funding from the MSNZ for protected research time with 30 to 70 % exemption from clinical duties for up to five years. Thus, Clinician Scientists can pursue their research projects and can establish their individual research profile in translational cancer research.
Non-clinical scientists in translational cancer research are specifically supported by the MSNZ during their transition to scientific independence and research group leadership. The MSNZ funding covers 50 percent of the position for up to three years, and additionally calls for the commitment of the associated research institute in order to provide a long-term perspective. The supporting program of the MSNZ serves as a platform for scientific exchange and forms the basis for the development of research projects with strong translational focus. Furthermore, also staff scientists of the affiliated core facilities and technological platforms may apply for protected research time in order to advance their own research projects.
Junior Group Leaders
Outstanding junior research group leaders within the MSNZ can join the Frankfurt cancer research community and benefit from direct access to existing infrastructures of the UCT, the FCI and the DKTK. The MSNZ funding gives junior research group leaders the opportunity to establish their own research group and to develop their unique scientific profile in translational cancer research. At the same time, their expertise will be of added value to their scientific environment in Frankfurt.
Junior group leader positions within the MSNZ are open to Medical Scientists as well as Clinician Scientists who aspire to a purely scientific career or who want to limit their clinical work to specialized tasks in order to have sufficient time for a scientific career. Funding for junior research group leaders by the MSNZ and the associated institute is available for a period of up to seven years.
A broad scientific further education program in oncology is open to the young academics of the MSNZ, especially to those at early career stages. To make this possible, the MSNZ collaborates closely with existing local education programs, such as the graduate academy GRADE of the Goethe University, the training program of the University Cancer Center (UCT), and the DKTK School of Oncology. These courses are geared to the needs of Clinician Scientists and Medical Scientists and combine basic research and clinical aspects in order to promote interdisciplinary cooperation at an early stage.
Mentoring and Coaching
Mentoring support in the MSNZ program is specifically tailored to the challenges and framework conditions of each career stage and is carried out throughout the entire program. Scientists receive individual one-on-one mentoring and advice on the development of their career, completed by location-wide mentoring offers for specific career stages.
In order to ensure a close fit of research activities and specialist medical training, Clinician Scientists are recommended to have both a clinical and a scientific mentor. This internal mentoring is supplemented by external mentoring.
A special concern of the MSNZ is to promote young investigator’s scientific independence in order to promote project management and leadership skills as well as experience in successfully raising third-party funding already at early career stages. By balancing supervision and guidance on the one hand and encouraging initiative and independence on the other, the MSNZ offers scientists a structured framework in which they can develop and establish their scientific independence.
Equal opportunities and childcare
The MSNZ strives to ensure equal opportunities and to offer specific and effective support for balancing work and family life.
Specifically for the Clinician Scientists and Medical Scientists of the MSNZ, the day care nursery “Uni-Strolche” offers childcare places with out-of-hours and holiday support. Further support can be organized for MSNZ scientists according to their specific needs. Of course, MSNZ scientists may take advantage of all other offers made by the Equal Opportunities Office and the Family Service at the Goethe University.