Charité's oncology division is highly regarded, both within Germany and beyond. This reputation is the result of a particularly close interlinking of all aspects of oncology-based medical care and research. Patients diagnosed with cancer benefit from the highest standard of care, an achievement that is the direct result of combining an interdisciplinary treatment approach with the latest research findings and state-of-the-art technology.
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Our researchers tackle the most pressing challenges in oncology research, including treatment resistance and the development of tailored cancer treatment through molecular analysis. This approach ensures that experimental laboratory-based projects and clinical studies can benefit from each other's advances.
As early as 2007, Charité started the process of re-organizing the clinical and research activities of all specialists involved in the treatment of patients with cancer. The process culminated in the creation of one of the first comprehensive cancer treatment centers in Germany – the Charité Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCCC). CCCC is the first German cancer center to have been certified by The German Cancer Society as a treatment center for all common and rare cancers. The center's oncology expertise has also been recognized by German Cancer Aid, an organization that has classed the CCCC as an Oncology Center of Excellence and has been providing financial support since 2009. Patients who are treated at the CCCC benefit from the center's close links to research, including its involvement in a range of clinical trials and translational research projects. This enables CCCC to offer the most up-to-date treatment methods available nationally and internationally, since the majority of its clinical oncologists are also actively involved in cancer research.
All stages of a patient's treatment are coordinated by the CCCC. This means that from diagnosis and treatment planning to the delivery and completion of treatment, patients enjoy the care and support of an interdisciplinary team of specialists. Treatment planning is done on a case-by-case basis, which, depending on the individual patient's needs, may include surgery, radiation therapy, and/or drug-based treatment. Psycho-oncology and social support will also be offered. In the case of patients with advanced disease, where the cancer is no longer treatable, treatment plans also address any palliative care interventions. The aim of individualized treatment planning is to alleviate the severity of the patient's pain and any other symptoms associated with the disease or its treatment. It focuses on improving the patient's quality of life, including the patient's psychological and physical health, considers his/her needs in terms of social and spiritual support, and specifically addresses the need for involving members of the patient's family. Follow-up care, cooperation with the patient's non-hospital-based physicians, and access to self-help groups all have an important role to play as part of an integrative treatment concept.
A platform for molecular oncology research
In 2006, and in an attempt to promote basic oncology research, Charité founded the Molecular Cancer Research Center (MKFZ). The MKFZ is a centralized research facility that manages to combine all of Charité's experimental research groups with an interest in molecular oncology under one roof. It is a networking platform particularly aimed at externally-funded projects (group and individual) that are involved in the development of potential new treatment methods for a wide range of different types of cancer.
The MKFZ also offers all oncology-based research centers in the Greater Berlin area opportunities to get involved in an intra-regional exchange of knowledge. This includes seminars, workshops, conferences and symposia, some of which are held in collaboration with the CCCC, and are also aimed at supporting the training and continuing education of the next generation of cancer researchers.
Excellence Project 'Berlin School of Integrative Oncology (BSIO)
The Berlin School of Integrative Oncology (BSIO) represents an outstanding project of oncology-based further education and training. The BSIO, which is a joint initiative of Charité, Humboldt Universität, Freie Universität, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, and other partner organizations, offers a three-year oncology-based integrative doctoral program that is aimed at talented young life sciences researchers, physicians, and social sciences experts. The Graduate School is at the interface of biological sciences research and clinical application. By combining the expertise of hematologists, oncologists, molecular biologists, surgeons, and other experts, it is able to offer the next generation of talented researchers the necessary theoretical training and practical experience that will enable them to contribute to the development of new diagnostic and treatment methods. One of the things that makes this postgraduate degree course so special is the academic composition of its students. The fact that life sciences researchers and physicians are taught together is the result of a conscious decision, and the belief that early exposure to interdisciplinary thinking is likely to foster a new research culture that will embrace interdisciplinary exchange. In addition to this, students benefit from excellent research opportunities, a mentoring and coaching program, and technological facilities that are second to none.
The merits of the BSIO's unusual approach to promoting the interdisciplinary training of oncology researchers have been recognized by both the federal and state governments, who are providing support as part of the Excellence Initiative program. This support is provided in recognition of Charité's commitment to developing an internationally-renowned research environment dedicated to fostering top-quality research.