Press Page Axel Ullrich

Mistakes in the communication between cells have fatal consequences: All cancers and many other diseases develop because the cellular signal transmission is disturbed. Axel Ullrich and his team are investigating the cell's communication system and how defects can lead to diseases. With their results, they hope to lay the foundation for new therapeutic approaches..

Tumours can only grow if they are supplied with food and oxygen via the bloodstream. Therefore, they release factors that stimulate blood vessels to grow.

In order for cells to multiply and form different tissues such as blood vessels, nerve tissue or connective tissue, they must be stimulated by growth factors. These bind to receptors on the cell surface and start cellular signal transmission. An important component of the receptors are certain enzymes, the RTKs. They are activated by the binding of growth factors and send information to the cell nucleus via a signal chain. Since receptors, RTKs and growth factors also play a role in the development of cancer, Axel Ullrich and his team of researchers hope to decipher cellular signal transduction.

First successes achieved
Axel Ullrich's findings already formed the basis for the development of the first target-specific anti-cancer drug: The antibody Herceptin specifically blocks an overactive receptor in breast cancer, thereby interrupting the cellular signaling chain. The multispecific drug Sutent, which inhibits both cancer cells and the formation of new blood vessels, is also based on Ullrich's work.

The search continues
Ullrich's team intends to find new targets for therapies in the future and to advance the development of new drugs. Cooperation partners from industry are also expected to help. The scientists' goal is to find multi-specific drugs: They intervene simultaneously at several points in the cellular communication system and could therefore be used against different types of cancer.


Axel Ullrich, together with H. Michael Shepard and Dennis J. Slamon, receives the highest biomedical scientific award in the United States for the invention of Herceptin. more

Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide and the World Health Organisation projects over 13 million annual deaths from cancer by the year 2030. A new generation of medicines based… more

Axel Ullrich, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Molecular Biology at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried has been awarded the Johann-Georg-Zimmermann Medal for his services… more

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