You are hereby cordially invited to attend the second public STIAS lecture of 2013. This presents an opportunity to SU researchers and students, as well as members of the public, to learn more about the work of STIAS fellows.

On this occasion Nobel laureate Prof. Harald zur Hausen of the German Cancer Research Centre and currently a STIAS fellow will present a talk with the title:

Are colon cancers and childhood leukemias caused by infections?


At present slightly more than 20% of the global cancer incidence can be linked to infectious events. The identification of infectious agents causing human cancers resulted in novel diagnostic procedures and in risk assessment of the infected persons. Even more importantly successful preventive strategies have been developed, permitting the elimination of potentially carcinogenic parasitic and bacterial infections by chemotherapy or antibiotics. For two wide spread viral infections (Hepatitis B and high risk HPV), jointly causing annually approximately 1 million new cancer cases globally, preventive vaccines became available, providing long-lasting protection against re-infection with these agents.

The recognition of infectious agents as major cancer causes may stimulates hypotheses and experimental approaches to analyze additional human cancers, not yet linked to infectious events, for a potential role of infectious agents in their etiology. Prime targets in our laboratory are colon cancers and malignancies of the hematopoietic system, specifically childhood leukemias, neuroblastomas and brain tumors. Colon cancer has been linked to long-time consumption of red meat. Chemical carcinogens arising during broiling, roasting, grilling, or curing of this meat result in a 20-30% increased risk for this cancer. Similar levels of these carcinogens, however, are present after preparing poultry or fish in a similar way for consumption. Yet, long-time diets of fish or poultry have not been linked to an increased colon cancer risk. In addition, the geographic epidemiology of this cancer points to a specific bovine factor involved in this malignancy. Reasons to consider a role of an infectious agent will be discussed.

Additional considerations point to a link of infectious factors in the etiology of several early-onset childhood cancers (leukemias, neuroblastomas, brain tumors). Syncarcinogenic interactions of specific genetic modifications with prenatal infections leading to immune tolerance could explain all epidemiological characteristics of these cancers.

Date      Tuesday 12 March 2013
Time      13:00
Place     Con de Villiers lecture hall, JC Smuts building, Stellenbosch University

Take the foot bridge over Merriman avenue from the Neelsie. 

We look forward to welcoming you at this event  –  not to be missed!

For more information, contact Felicia McDonald at 021 808 2581 or

Prof Harald zur Hausen. Image copyright: Armin Kübelbeck under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

Prof Harald zur Hausen. Image copyright: Armin Kübelbeck under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

Prof Harald zur Hausen is currently a fellow at STIAS. He is a German virologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine of Physiology in 2008 for his discovery of papilloma viruses that play a role in cervical cancers. He studied medicine at the universities of Bonn, Hamburg and Düsseldorf , where he graduated. He worked as postdoc at the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology in Düsseldorf, as Assistant Professor of Virology at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, and was Chief Assistant at the Institute of  Virology of the University of Würzburg. From 1972 he led the Institute of Virology at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. In 1977 he was awarded the Chair of Virology at the University of Freiburg. Between 1983 and 2003 he was Chair and Scientific Member of the Board of the German Cancer Research Institute in Heidelberg.  Besides the Nobel Prize he has won numerous national and international prizes, has been awarded twelve honorary doctorates, is co-editor of a number of scientific journals, and is a member of a number of scientific academies, notably the National Academy of Sciences (USA). Since 2006 he has been a member of the National Science Transfer and Development Agency in Bangkok in Thailand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.

© 2012-2023 Department of Microbiology Blog All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright