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Press Release No. 44 | 31 August 2009
Stimuli for Clinical Research

DFG establishes five new Clinical Research Units to tackle the challenges faced by medicine

With the establishment of five new Clinical Research Units the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) hopes to give a further boost to clinical research in Germany and drive progress in the scientific investigation and possibilities for the treatment of disease. Just like the existing Clinical Research Units, the newly established units also tightly link the fields of clinical research, applied research and basic research, in so doing making a significant contribution to developing and raising the scientific profile of the medical schools involved. "Over and above that, this funding instrument also helps to improve the training of young researchers", said Dr. Petra Hintze from the DFG's Life Sciences Division, who is responsible for the Clinical Research Units.

The research of the five new Clinical Research Units focuses on highly topical medical issues, such as improving the treatment of metastases in bowel cancer patients, or how to treat hormone-related obesity more effectively. Another topic studied will be the effects of transport abnormalities in the liver and how to improve the treatment of bone marrow cancer or inflammation of the renal corpuscles.

The five new Clinical Research Units, which are the first to have been approved since the programme was reformed in 2008, bring the total number of Clinical Research Units established by the DFG since 2001 to 46. They were established between June and August this year and some of them have already started work. The five newly established units (listed in alphabetical order by host university) are:

Hormone-related obesity is a severe health burden for a large number of patients as well as being a major challenge for health care systems worldwide. The Clinical Research Unit at the Charité University Hospital, Berlin, will be working to improve the prediction of and methods for reducing obesity in the long term. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms responsible for it, the researchers will analyse the dynamics of hormonal activity and the body's metabolism during and after severe weight loss. This research is augmented by clinical and experimental projects that will look into how to prevent renewed weight gain following weight loss achieved by dieting. (Host university: Charité - University Hospital Berlin. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Annette Grüters-Kieslich. Principal investigators: Professor Dr. Heiko Krude and Professor Dr. Joachim Spranger)

With three million sufferers of liver disease in Germany, the search for a cure is of great importance both clinically as well as socially and economically. The goal of the new Clinical Research Unit at Düsseldorf University Hospital is to study the extent to which transport abnormalities in the liver are not only the main cause of such disease, but also affect the course of the disease. For instance, the researchers want to gain a better understanding of the course of the disease, develop diagnostic and prognostic parameters that are suitable for routine use as well as treatment options for patients with cholestatic liver disease and at the same time make progress in the field of patient-oriented research. (Host university: Düsseldorf University Hospital. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Dieter Häussinger. Principal investigator: Professor Dr. Ralf J. Kubitz)

Apart from having other physical effects, glomerulonephritis can also lead to a dangerous form of kidney inflammation, inflammation of the renal corpuscles, as a result of a specific immune reaction. Rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis, in particular, can lead to complete loss of kidney function. Existing forms of treatment available to date, involving suppression of the immune system, have been rather unspecific and had severe side effects for patients. The Clinical Research Unit at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf therefore aims to find more individual forms of treatment that are easier on the patient and thus more successful, as well as developing better diagnostic and prognostic strategies, based on a better understanding of the reason for the emergence of immune system disorders due to glomerulonephritis. (Host university: University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Rolf Stahl. Principal investigator: Privatdozent Dr. Ulf Panzer)

The most common cause of death amongst bowel cancer patients is still metastasis. The new Clinical Research Unit at Heidelberg University Hospital aims to analyse the poorly-understood mechanisms which lead to the development of metastases due to the circulating tumour cells from primary tumours. Another aim is to reach a more precise definition of the anti-tumour reactions by the immunological host in bowel cancer patients. The researchers hope to gain a better understanding of numerous biological aspects and to develop possible approaches to treating these patients, in order to combat the development of metastases more effectively. (Host university: Heidelberg University Hospital. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Markus W. Büchler. Principal investigator: Professor Dr. Jürgen Weitz)

The new Clinical Research Unit at Würzburg University Hospital will devote its efforts to the study of multiple myeloma. Their work is based on the assumption that the malignant form of this type of bone marrow cancer is due to the activation of various carcinogenic signal pathways. They plan to investigate the individual signal pathways and the links between them in detail. Through a better understanding of the many facets of this disease, they hope to be able to develop new, more effective forms of treatment. (Host university: Würzburg University Hospital. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Hermann Einsele. Principal investigator: Professor Dr. Ralf C. Bargou)

Further Information

For further information on Clinical Research Units from the DFG, please contact:

  • Dr. Petra Hintze,
    Life Sciences Division 1,
    Tel.: +49 228 885-2552,
    E-Mail: Petra.Hintze@dfg.de

Further information on Clinical Research Units is also available online from:

For a summary of the DFG's activities in the field of clinical research, visit: