Research program

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”:

  1. Molecular diagnostics and biomarkers
    Identification of novel molecular markers via high throughput technologies (e.g. genomics, metabolomics, proteomics) and validation in clinical trials.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

Medical students

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.

Clinician Scientists

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.

Medical Scientists

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.

The Mildred Scheel Career Center Frankfurt is funded by the German Cancer Aid.