AwardHeidelberg Cancer Researcher Awarded Hella Bühler Prize
30 June 2023
Dr Wilhelm Palm receives 100,000-euro award for his investigations of cancer metabolism
This year’s Hella Bühler Prize – which comes with prize money of 100,000 euros – has been awarded to Dr Wilhelm Palm for his ground-breaking research in the field of cancer metabolism. The award, granted by Ruperto Carola, goes to young researchers at the Heidelberg research location who have already attracted attention through the outstanding scientific quality of their cancer research. Dr Palm is a junior research group leader at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and a member of the DKFZ-ZMBH Alliance, the strategic alliance between the DKFZ and the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH).
With his team, Dr Palm investigates how cancer cells use alternative sources of nutrients enabling them to proliferate uncontrollably and thrive in nutrient-poor tumour environments. His work aims to identify vulnerabilities in cancer metabolism that can be potentially targeted for cancer therapy. Malignant tumours, for instance, are often poorly connected to blood supply so that cancer cells frequently suffer from nutrient deprivation. Under these conditions they have to secure their survival by shifting to alternative sources of nutrients, such as proteins. Wilhelm Palm’s team was able to identify a protein that allows cancer cells to make this change. This discovery could point to a way of deliberately starving cancer cells.
Wilhelm Palm earned his doctorate in 2011 at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and at Technische Universität Dresden with a study of the complex interaction of metabolism, nutrition and organismic development. He then worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York (USA). Since 2017 the biochemist has headed the DKFZ Junior Research Group “Cell Signaling and Metabolism”.
The ceremony to award the Hella Bühler Prize was opened by Prof. Dr Matthias Weidemüller, Vice-Rector for Innovation and Transfer at Heidelberg University. Prof. Dr Sergio P. Acebrón from the Centre for Organismal Studies then gave a retrospective report on his research projects. He won the prize in 2021. Tribute was paid to the current prize-winner by Prof. Dr Almut Schulze, head of the Division of Tumour Metabolism and Microenvironment at the German Cancer Research Center and professor at the Medical Faculty Heidelberg. Finally, Dr Palm shared insights into his research. The award ceremony took place on 14 June 2023 at the Marsilius Kolleg.
The research prize donated by the Heidelberg dentist Dr Hella Bühler (1910 bis 2002) goes to early-career researchers at Heidelberg University or to young researchers involved in scientific collaboration with Ruperto Carola. The award aims to support the prize winners at an early stage in their career in continuing and deepening their already outstanding achievements in the field of cancer research. Granted by the university, it is one of the most valuable awards in the field of cancer research in Germany.