2017 Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Prize for Cancer Research awarded to Adrian Bird, Guido Kroemer and Laurence Zitvogel

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Award ceremony of the Brupbacher Prize for Cancer Research 2015. (image: C.R. Br
Award ceremony of the Brupbacher Prize for Cancer Research 2015. (image: C.R. Brupbacher Stiftung)
The prize, donated by Frédérique Brupbacher in memory of her husband, Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher, will be awarded for the thirteenth time in February 2017. Endowed with prize money of CHF 100,000 for each award, the prize is considered one of the most prestigious research distinctions in the international cancer community. The prize goes again to three outstanding researchers, this time for groundbreaking research on the impact of epigenetics, cell death, and gut microbiota on the progression of cancer. This research lays important groundwork for improving the understanding of cancer and for developing new, targeted therapies.

Interaction of Genetics and Epigenetics in the Development of Cancer

Adrian Bird, recipient of the first prize, is Professor of Genetics at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology of the University of Edinburgh. His work focuses on the interaction of genetics and epigenetics, an aspect of cancer development that has received little research attention to date. Methyl groups, which are added to the DNA, regulate the activity of numerous genes. The majority of the human genome carries such methyl groups. Within the genom there are also small regions, known as CpG islands, without such epigenetic marks.

In tumor cells, CpG islands are often methylated, and these DNA methylation changes generally trigger an abnormal inactivation of the affected gene. Adrian Bird and his team investigated proteins that bind to CpG islands and influence DNA methylation and other epigenetic characteristics. These proteins, which control the interaction of genome and epigenome, are often deregulated in cancer and may thus play a significant role in oncogenesis.

Influence of the Immune System on the Development and Treatment of Cancer

The second prize is being conferred jointly on physician Giudo Kroemer from the Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers of the Université Paris Descartes and immunologist Laurence Zitvogel from the Laboratory for Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy of the Gustave Roussy Cancer Center. Their research focuses on how the immune system influences the development and treatment of cancer.

The work of Guido Kroemer focuses on apoptosis – programmed cell death – the process by which cells self-eliminate when they become impaired. A further process, autophagy, plays a significant role in how cells survive the effects of toxic substances, such as during chemotherapy. Kroemer and his team were able to demonstrate that the death of cancer cells can stimulate the immune system, if autophagy has been activated in advance. This reactivates immunogenicity of the tumor cells, thus making them "visible" to defense cells and allowing them to be efficiently eliminated. The type of immune reaction triggered by dying cancer cells is thus decisive for the success of cancer treatment.

The Role of Gut Microbiota in Anti-Tumor Therapies

In various papers, Laurence Zitvogel and her research team demonstrated that gut microbiota not only influences its immediate surroundings, but also affects the immune response to cancer cells in other regions of the body. They further proved that the bacteria strains Escherichia hirae and Barnesiella intestinihominis substantially improve the success of chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide in patients with lung and ovarian cancer. Bacteria from the Bacteroidales, Burkholderiales, and Bifidobacteriales groups also affect tumor micro-environment and enhance the effectiveness of antibody therapies for skin cancer. Until now, it was unknown – and unexpected – that gut microbiota can enhance the body's immune reaction to cancer cells outside of the gut.

Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Symposium 2017

Public Lecture: "Can Skin Cancer be Cured?" (lecture held in German)

Reinhard Dummer, Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Zurich

Tuesday, 31 January 2017, 7:00pm to 8:00pm

University of Zurich, City Campus, main lecture hall (KOL G 201), Rämistrasse 71, Zurich

13. Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Symposium

"Breakthroughs in Cancer Research and Therapy"

The symposium will address the following topics: Cancer genomics, cancer signaling and targeted therapy, genomic instability, cancer epigenetics, cancer stem cells, tumor microenvironment and tumor immunity, and cancer therapy.

Wednesday 1 February to Friday 3 February 2017

ETH Zurich, main building, Audi Max (HG F 30), Rämistrasse 101, Zurich

Lecture held in English, admission free, limited seats

Registration deadline 30 January 2017 at www.brupbacher-foun­dation.org

Prize Ceremony, 2017 Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Prize for Cancer Research

The prize is awarded to scientists who have made extraordinary contributions to basic oncological research. Prize money: CHF 100,000 per person or per team

Thursday, 2 February 2017, 5:15pm to 6:45pm

ETH Zurich, main building, Audi Max (HG F 30), Rämistrasse 101, Zurich

Young Investigator Awards

The award is bestowed upon up to five young investigators under the age of 35 who submit, as first author, one of the over hundred posters for the academic symposium, and then display, present, and actively discuss their poster throughout the event. Prize money: CHF 2,000 per poster

Friday, 3 February 2017, 11:30am to 12:00 midday.

ETH Zurich, main building, Audi Max (HG F 30), Rämistrasse 101, Zurich

About the Foundation

The mission of the Foundation is to foster cancer research in Switzerland and internationally. It was founded by Frédérique Brupbacher in memory of her late husband Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher who had died of cancer. Until her death in 2015, Frédérique Brupbacher presided over the Foundation with a great deal of commitment. During her final years, the Foundation that she had set up became her most important purpose in life. She therefore took a very active role in developing it and was able to personally attend the first eleven scientific C. R. Brupbacher Symposia und hand over the prizes.

Key elements of the Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Foundation's activities biennially are:

- Bestowal of the Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Prize for Cancer Research;

- Organisation of the scientific C. R. Brupbacher Symposium in Zurich;

- Bestowal of a maximum of five Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Young Investigator Awards;

- Lecture on cancer research for the public in the German language.

The seat of the Foundation is in Vaduz, Principality of Liechtenstein. In scientific matters it works closely together with the University of Zurich, especially with the Medical Faculty. In terms of cancer research and cancer treatment the University of Zurich and the University Hospital of Zurich are among the best in the world. One of the objectives of the scientific C. R. Brupbacher Symposium is also to strengthen Zurich as a research location for oncology and to promote the international exchange of information among scientists in Zurich.