Anton Henssen studies what genetic factors can lead to malignant tumors in children. The head of an Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Henssen discovered along with his colleagues that so-called transposases cause genomic rearrangements in tumor cells by making cuts in DNA ‒ thus triggering mutations. As a result, it is no longer possible to read the genetic information properly and the cell degenerates into a tumor cell. But the researchers led by Henssen have discovered a weak spot in the tumor cells: Because of the numerous errors that exist in their DNA, they increasingly come to need repair mechanisms to stitch together the DNA so that it continues to function normally. “If we inhibit DNA repair in tumor cells, the cells die because they can’t repair the damage. For children whose tumors no longer respond to established therapies, this discovery could open up new treatment options, such as the use of DNA repair inhibitors,” explains the future pediatrician, who is taking part in the BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Program, which allows physicians to pursue a structured residency with time set aside for clinical and basic research. And this dual approach is bearing fruit: “Our recently published results already show that the repair inhibitor idea works in mice,” says Henssen. Now his goal is to translate the idea into clinical practice.
About the Hector Foundation
The H.W. & J. Hector Foundation in Weinheim and the Hector Foundation II, founded in 1995 and 2008 respectively, were started by the married couple Josephine Hector and Dr. h.c. Hans-Werner Hector. The foundation supports projects in the fields of medical research, the arts, culture, business, and education as well as social projects. The Hector Oncology Research Award is given for outstanding scientific work in the field of oncology and comes with a cash prize of €20,000. Eligible candidates must have published scientific articles on basic and clinical oncological research.
Henssen AG, Koche R, Zhuang J, Jiang E, Reed C, Eisenberg A, Still E, MacArthur IC, Rodríguez-Fos E, Gonzalez S, Puiggròs M, Blackford AN, Mason CE, de Stanchina E, Gönen M, Emde AK, Shah M, Arora K, Reeves C, Socci ND, Perlman E, Antonescu CR, Roberts CWM, Steen H, Mullen E, Jackson SP Torrents D, Weng Z, Armstrong SA, Kentsis A. PGBD5 promotes site-specific oncogenic mutations in human tumors. Nat Genet. 2017 Jul;49(7):1005-1014. DOI: 10.1038/ng.3866.
Anton G. Henssen, Casie Reed, Eileen Jiang1, Heathcliff Dorado Garcia, Jennifer von Stebut, Ian C. MacArthur, Patrick Hundsdoerfer, Jun Hyun Kim, Elisa de Stanchina, Yasumichi Kuwahara, Hajime Hosoi, Neil J. Ganem, Filemon Dela Cruz, Andrew L. Kung, Johannes H. Schulte, John H. Petrini and Alex Kentsis. Therapeutic targeting of PGBD5-induced DNA repair dependency in pediatric solid tumors. Science Translational Medicine. 01 Nov 2017. Vol. 9, Issue 414. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aam9078