Presentation of the Christoph Schmelzer Award marks an anniversary


This year marks the 20th time that the The Association for the Promotion of Tumor Therapy with Heavy Ions (Verein zur Förderung der Tumortherapie mit schweren Ionen) has honored young scientists with the Christoph Schmelzer Award. The association honored the two best doctoral dissertations and the best master’s thesis of 2018 with prize money of €1,500 for each dissertation and €750 for the master’s thesis.

Dr. Christian Möhler (Heidelberg University), Dr. Patrick Wohlfahrt (TU Dresden), and Tabea Pfuhl (Goethe University Frankfurt) received the awards at a gala ceremony at the GSI campus in Darmstadt on November 22. After a welcoming address by Dr. Dieter Schardt, the Chairman of the Association, and a word of greeting by Gerhard Kraft, the initiator and crucial pioneer of this tumor therapy at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum, the awards were officially presented.

In her master’s thesis at Goethe University Frankfurt, Tabea Pfuhl documented her efforts to precisely measure the dose buildup effects during the penetration of proton beams into tissue or water and to compare this data with simulation calculations.

With the help of a carefully thought-out experimental setup, she succeeded in separating the contribution of the delta electrons and thus determining the dose fractions of the nuclear target fragments, which are otherwise difficult to access experimentally. She conducted the experiments for her investigations at the proton therapy facility in Trento, Italy.

A special aspect of this year’s award is the fact that both of the recipients for doctoral dissertations, Dr. Christian Möhler and Dr. Patrick Wohlfahrt, worked together on the same topic. They conducted comprehensive and pioneering studies in the area of range calculation by means of dual-layer spectral computer tomography. They also successfully translated their findings step by step into clinical applications.

The 20th annual presentation of this award testifies to the association’s long and continuous promotion of young scientists in the field of ion-beam tumor therapy. The topics of these scientific research projects have fundamental significance for the further development of ion therapy, because the results of the award-winning projects are often translated into clinical applications. The awards are named after Professor Christoph Schmelzer, the co-founder and first Scientific Director of GSI. The GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung, where heavy ion therapy was developed in Germany to the clinical use stage in the 1990s, traditionally offers an appropriate setting for the annual presentation ceremony.

The Association for the Promotion of Tumor Therapy supports activities conducted within the research project Tumor Therapy with Heavy Ions at GSI, with the goal of improving tumor treatment by refining the system and making it available for general use in patient care. During a pilot project conducted at the accelerator facility at GSI from 1997 to 2008, more than 400 patients with tumors in the head and neck were treated with ion beams. The cure rate of this method has been more than 90 percent in some categories, and the side effects are very slight. At the Heidelberg Ion-Beam Therapy Center (HIT), patients have routinely been treated with heavy ions since 2009. (JL)


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