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High science distinction for Michael Baumann

At its 100th Annual Meeting, the American Radium Society honored Michael Baumann, Chairman and Scientific Director of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Spokesman for the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), with the Janeway Gold Medal. The medal, which is awarded for outstanding contributions in cancer therapy, is one of the most prestigious distinctions in radiation oncology.

Michael Baumann © Philip Benjamin, NCT Dresden

Since 1933, the American Radium Society has annually honored a leading oncologist with the Janeway Lecture and the accompanying Gold Medal. This year, the society has chosen Michael Baumann, a radiation oncologist and radiation biologist, as the first German scientist to receive the high distinction.

Michael Baumann's research program has been dedicated for many years to combining applied cancer research and clinical oncology. As a physician, Baumann has treated cancer patients with radiotherapy since 1990. His research focus has been on exploring individualized radiotherapy, where radiation-specific biomarkers are used to adjust radiation treatment to the individual patient.

For example, using positron emission tomography (PET) and specific markers, Baumann was able to show that oxygen deprivation during radiochemotherapy in tumors of the head and neck is associated with considerably deteriorated treatment response. In investigations on tumor tissue, he additionally identified further important biomarkers.

The results may help tailor the current standard therapy for head-and-neck cancer better to the individual patient. Based on the innovative imaging method and the biomarkers, physicians are enabled to predict the effectiveness of combined radiochemotherapy. If the prognosis for the patient is unfavorable, radiotherapy might be intensified in future treatments to increase the chances of cure. If the prognosis is favorable, physicians might choose a less aggressive therapy in order to further reduce the risk of side effects.

From 2004 until 2016, Baumann established the "OncoRay" National Center for Radiation Research in Oncology in Dresden and pursued the integration of new biological findings with advanced technologies in radiation therapy. Since November 2016, Prof. Dr. Michael Baumann has been Chairman and Scientific Director of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg and chairman and spokesperson of the steering committee of the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK).

Michael Baumann earned his degree as a medical doctor from Hamburg University in 1988. He was a postdoctoral fellow to the Massachussetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA, until late 1989. Following his training as a radiation therapy specialist, he attained his qualification to give lectures ('Habilitation') in Hamburg in 1994. In 1995, he joined the Medical Faculty Carl Gustav Carus in Dresden as head of Experimental Radiotherapy. Starting from 2003, Michael Baumann was the founding director of the University Cancer Center (UCC), Dresden. From 2010 until 2016, he was director of Radiotherapy and Radiation Oncology at Dresden University Hospital and also director of the Institute of Radiooncology at the Helmholtz-Center in Dresden-Rossendorf.

The American Radium Society, the oldest medical association devoted to the study and treatment of cancer, established the distinction in honor of Henry Harrington Janeway, a pioneer of the treatment of cervical cancer with radium. Previous Janeway Lecturers include developers of groundbreaking new methods in cancer therapy, such as Henry Seymour Kaplan, who used one of the first linear accelerators for cancer radiotherapy, and Herman Suit, a pioneer of particle therapy using protons. Kaplan saved the lives of many patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma with his innovative use of radiation therapy. Finally, John Mendelsohn ushered in a new era of targeted anticancer drugs with his development of an antibody against the receptor of the EGF growth factor.

The medal was presented at the society's annual general meeting in Orlando, Florida, USA.