Professor Cornelia Ulrich has been director of the Preventive Oncology Division in the National Centre for Tumour Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg since mid-September 2009. She also holds a professorship in the Department of Preventive Oncology at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg.
Professor Ulrich joins Professor Christof von Kalle, director of the Translational Oncology Division and spokesperson of the NCT's board of directors, and Professor Dirk Jäger, director of the Medical Oncology Division, as the third NCT director. Ulrich also heads up the newly established Department of Preventive Oncology at the German Cancer Research Centre where she holds a Helmholtz excellence professorship. Ulrich's department investigates the connection between genetic and environmental factors in the pathogenesis of cancer and focuses on strategies for the prevention and early diagnosis of cancer. One of the team's goals is to establish innovative screening methods for the early diagnosis of cancer, and another important goal is to find out what cancer patients themselves can do to improve disease outcome and personal well-being.
Prior to her posts at the NCT and the DKFZ, Cornelia Ulrich worked at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, USA since 1999 where she held a professorship in the centre's cancer prevention programme. Her major research activities focused on finding out whether the development of cancer is associated with a patient's genetic composition. Ulrich was particularly interested in genes that are related to inflammation and metabolic processes. She hopes to use the results obtained from her research activities in Seattle to develop cancer prevention measures that are adjusted to patients' individual requirements.
The scientist is also responsible for coordinating the ColoCare study. The objective of this international consortium is to improve colon cancer treatment by adapting the therapy to the requirements of individual patients as well as identifying what the patients themselves can do to improve their prognosis and well-being following diagnosis with colon cancer. Possible ways of improving disease outcome include changes in diet, participation in special sports programmes and the prevention of metastases through anti-inflammatory drugs. Ulrich believes that Heidelberg and the NCT offer her excellent opportunities to carry out interdisciplinary research projects that combine prevention and epidemiology with clinical application. "The new approach helps us to obtain findings which will help clinicians at the same time as being of direct benefit to cancer patients," said Ulrich.
Cornelia Ulrich, 42, was born in Fellbach near Stuttgart and did her undergraduate nutritional science studies at the University of Hohenheim. She was then awarded a Fulbright grant and moved to the Oregon State University in Corvallis, USA where she did her master's degree thesis on the relationship between diet, physical activity and bone density in post-menopausal women. Supported by a DAAD grant, she did her PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle on the relationship between genes and food with the objective of improving the prevention of colon cancer. Cornelia Ulrich has two sons (6 and 9 years old) and her husband, Bruce Edgar, is also a professor in Heidelberg. She finds it important to encourage young women to work in science: "It is not always easy to combine family and professional career, but it is worth the effort and it is also very enjoyable," says Ulrich, talking from personal experience.
The National Centre for Tumour Diseases (NCT) is a cooperative project between the University Hospital in Heidelberg, the German Cancer Research Centre, the Thorax Clinic at the University Hospital in Heidelberg and German Cancer Aid. The NCT is a new type of organisation that combines optimal interdisciplinary patient treatment with outstanding cancer research.