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A one-of-a-kind, interdisciplinary concept in Germany

Prof. Dr. Annette Grüters-Kieslich, Chairwoman of the Board and Chief Medical Director at Heidelberg University Hospital | Photo: Heidelberg University Hospital

Interview with Prof. Dr. Annette Grüters-Kieslich

Prof. Dr. Annette Grüters-Kieslich, Chairwoman of the Board and Chief Medical Director at Heidelberg University Hospital, speaks about the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg. The NCT stands for interdisciplinary cooperation and innovation. With the aim to provide highly competent counsel and treatment, the NCT combines interdisciplinary patient care with current cancer research. The interdisciplinary care of patients makes optimal individual therapy possible.

Dr. Grüters-Kieslich, you have been Chairwoman of the Board and Chief Medical Director at Heidelberg University Hospital since June 2017. Can you please explain to us how the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) and Heidelberg University Hospital are related?

Prof. Dr. Annette Grüters-Kieslich: The NCT is the oncologic portal to the University Hospital. In 2004, we founded the NCT Heidelberg together with the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). We want to bring prevention, diagnosis, therapy, and research together. The common goal is that our patients benefit from research advances more rapidly than ever before.
With the NCT, the hospital has created an infrastructure for interdisciplinary care of patients with oncological diseases that is unparalleled in Germany. Under one roof, joint research projects of the hospital and the DKFZ are carried out in a way that's only possible in Heidelberg. For this collaborative effort to be successful, it is necessary that physicians and scientists of various disciplines, coming from different "cultures," have the time and easy means for frequent interdisciplinary exchange. The rapid growth of the NCT as well as its early recognition as comprehensive cancer center shows clearly how successful this strategy and its implementation have been. Today, we are the leading oncologic center in Germany with an international reputation. A plan, ambitious from the start, was fulfilled - for the benefit of patients.

Discussion during Tumor Conference | Copyright: NCT, Philipp Benjamin

At the NCT it has been proven very effective that clinicians and researchers work together in one building. The close proximity highly supports the idea of interdisciplinary collaboration.
What does this mean and does the patient even notice?

Grüters-Kieslich: I would agree. The patients at the NCT experience highly competent consultations and treatment. They notice that the constant exchange between the scientists and doctors creates new and innovative ideas. And even patients for whom the disease or disease course is unusual can rely on a team of experts that meet regularly and confer regarding the best recommendations for each individual.

Personalized oncologic medicine and a high rate of clinical studies - that and much more distinguish the NCT. Has the NCT become a role model for other centers?

Grüters-Kieslich: Yes. And I believe that "personalized" medicine, for which I prefer the term "precision" medicine, is exactly what patients and the healthcare system need. This means a high rate of successful therapies combined with a low rate of patients undergoing therapy that is not effective for them. This is a principle that should hold true not only for oncology but for other areas of medicine. New insights and also new intellectual approaches have arisen from joint efforts.