Harald zur Hausen – in memory of a pioneer of cancer prevention

Prof. Dr Harald zur Hausen died on 28 May 2023. With his research, he laid the foundation for a new way of cancer prevention. We at oncgnostics commemorate the internationally renowned virologist not only because of his pioneering spirit, but also because our work is closely related to the 2008 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine.   

Proof: HPV triggers cervical cancer  

In the 1980s zur Hausen proved that human papillomaviruses (HPV) can trigger cervical cancer and other types of tumours. The virus is sexually transmitted and is very common. In most cases, the body’s own immune system fights the pathogen, but in a few cases, tumour cells can develop from an HPV infection.  

Zur Hausen: Pioneer in cancer prevention  

Initially, zur Hausen’s research was seen more as an outsider’s view, but with the proof that HPV is responsible for the development of certain types of cancer, he laid the foundation for a new kind of cancer prevention. By realising that certain viruses are responsible for the development of tumours, zur Hausen created the prerequisite for the development of vaccines. Since 2007, the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) has recommended vaccination against HPV. Colloquially, this is also called the “cervical cancer vaccination”, even though it also protects against other types of tumours triggered by HPV.  

Close relationship with the tumour virologist  

We at oncgnostics feel closely connected to Prof. zur Hausen in several ways. The tumour virologist was the doctoral supervisor of oncgnostics co-founder and advisory board member Prof. Matthias Dürst. The former head of gynaecological molecular biology at the Jena University Women’s Hospital made a significant contribution to the research that led to zur Hausen being awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine.  

We remember Prof. zur Hausen as an outstanding scientist who established a new way of preventing cancer. We want to take his enthusiasm as a model, which was unbroken despite skepticism and finally led to success.  



Photo credits: Armin Kuebelbeck; Net Vector / Shutterstock.com