Hope for new methods of treating an especially malignant form of cancer
Munich-based tumour researcher Dr. Sebastian Kobold receives Ernst Jung Career Advancement Award for Medical Research 2016.
Pancreatic cancer is a tumour disease with an especially poor prognosis. The immune therapies developed on the basis of T cells in recent years have no effect here. A medical innovation could change this: Senior Academic Assistant Dr. med. Sebastian Kobold, assistant physician at the Medical Center of the University of Munich, is working on the development of new proteins which are intended to enable T cells to destroy pancreatic carcinoma cells. This promising project is now receiving extensive support. The Jung Foundation for Science and Research is supporting Dr. Kobold’s work for three years with the Ernst Jung Career Advancement Award for Medical Research. Carrying prize money of 210,000 euros, it is one of Germany’s most highly valued promotional awards within its category.
T cells are to be made fit for the fight against pancreatic cancer
Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze died of it, so did Steffi Graf’s father Peter, the tenor Luciano Pavarotti and country singer Ray Price, Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord, the Nobel laureate in medicine Ralph Steinman and the mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot – pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of cancer. This is due to the fact that immune therapies in particular, which prove to be successful against other forms of cancer, are ineffective against pancreatic cancer. The project being managed by Dr. Sebastian Kobold and his working group aims to change this. “Targeted therapy of the pancreatic carcinoma by the combination of bispecific antibodies and transduced T cells”, is the title of the project approach: Genetic modification of T cells and development of new proteins is intended to change T cells so that they are able to destroy pancreatic carcinoma cells in addition to other tumour cells.
Support through the Jung foundation will now enable Dr. Kobold to temporarily suspend his work as an assistant physician for a period of three years and concentrate fully on this promising approach. The prize money of 210,000 euros will support him and his team in continuing the development of the innovative procedure and in conducting preclinical trials.
Rolf Kirchfeld, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Jung Foundation for Science and Research, explains the expert jury’s decision to award support: “The Jung Foundation rewards approaches that have the potential to produce effective therapy options. The subject of Dr. Kobold’s research is such an approach.”
The Ernst Jung Career Advancement Award for Medical Research is not only one of the highest-value promotional prizes for excellent junior medical researchers in Germany but is also specifically aimed at helping young German top medical specialists working abroad to return to research institutions in their homeland. This is also the case with Sebastian Kobold. After completing his studies in medicine, he began his further training to become a consultant for internal medicine specializing in haematology and oncology at the II. Medical Clinic and Polyclinic (Clinic for Oncology, Haematology, Pneumology with the Section for Stem Cell Transplantation) of the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf before moving to Medical Clinic and Polyclinic IV at the University Hospital of Munich in 2010. There he combined his further clinical training with setting up an experimental working group in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology. In 2013, he went to the USA as a visiting scientist. There, at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, he contributed his knowledge of tumour immunology to the development of new therapeutic antibodies. In addition to his scientific and practical work in medicine, Dr. Kobold has also devoted himself to teaching. In 2014, he completed his post-doctoral thesis, qualifying him for a professorship, at the Medical Center of the University of Munich and, in January 2015, resumed his training to become a consultant at the Medical Clinic and Polyclinic IV.
“Medical powerlessness in the face of some diseases is not acceptable”
“Medicine must continue to evolve until we are no longer helpless when confronting even the most threatening diseases”, this is the motto and motivation behind Dr. Kobold’s professional commitment. What drives him in these endeavours is a scientific fighting spirit that also has a personal background: his beloved grandmother became ill with and died of cancer. This experience of loss pointed him towards the clinical and scientific fight against cancer. “The condition of medical powerlessness in the face of some diseases is something I cannot accept.” Cancer, in particular, has something alarmingly fascinating, the young medical specialist explains. It is able to propagate in an unlimited manner and evade all the human body’s control mechanisms. “I believe we still can and must learn a lot from these processes to be able to defeat this disease.”
In his private life, too, Dr. Kobold is keen on activities that demand stamina, going on lengthy hikes and training for half-marathons – or reading extensively. He shares these hobbies with his wife Lisanne Kobold, whom he met while studying in France.