MSSO Cologne-Bonn in a nut-shell

Modern-day cancer therapy is witnessing a paradigmatic shift, away from globally toxic chemo- and radiotherapy, towards the use of non-genotoxic targeted small molecules and antibodies. These efforts are rooted in a steadily deepening molecular understanding of the patho-mechanisms underlying malignant transformation. The advent of modern technologies, particularly genome sequencing and novel approaches in high-performance computational biology, has revolutionized cancer research. These knowledge gains led to the development and clinical implementation of numerous novel drugs that specifically target genotype-stratified tumor entities. Prime examples are the use of specific tyrosine kinase inhibitors for EGFR-mutant-, EML4-ALK-rearranged- or ROS1-rearranged tumors, as well as BCR-ABL-fused leukemia. These groundbreaking developments necessitate a profound change in the training and education of young oncologists and medical scientists.

Physicians need solid clinical skills and a thorough training in molecular cancer research. Conversely, medical scientists require a solid training in basic science technologies, but also a deep understanding of clinical problems and unmet challenges. Thus, we carefully assembled a peerless consortium of clinical opinion leaders and internationally competitive cancer researchers to create a structured training program for physician scientists and medical scientists that aim for a career in translational oncology.

The German Cancer Aid is funding the 'Mildred-Scheel Centers’ for 5 years with the aim to further the development of the brightest minds at the interface between basic cancer science and clinical research. Of these, the MSSO Cologne-Bonn is the only center with two partner sites. As hallmarks of the two partners, the school will facilitate existing expertise and unique synergies in tumor immunology and cancer genomics. The Cologne-Bonn area has emerged as a leading global research center with a unique constellation of institutes and scientists dedicated to translational oncology. Principal investigators of the MSSO Cologne-Bonn are internationally recognized scientists known for their cutting edge research. Close links between the research groups foster interdisciplinary collaboration and promote the development of novel research approaches.

Scientific focus

The MSSO Cologne-Bonn focuses on cancer genomics, computational biology, tumour immunology and genotype-stratified drug-design. The availability of novel sequencing technologies allows for an advanced patho-mechanistic understanding of neoplastic diseases. For many tumors, mutations have been identified, which are essential for tumorigenesis and survival. This molecular understanding is therapeutically relevant, as many oncogenically mutated gene products are amenable to targeted inhibition. The mutational load of individual tumors is likely to correlate with the expression of immunogenic neoepitopes. Patients with certain tumor entities benefit from immune checkpoint-blocking antibodies, impressively demonstrating the potential of immune responses against tumor cells. These developments show that the close integration of tumor genomics, immunology, computational genomics and drug development is therapeutically relevant.

An essential feature of tumor genomic and - immunological analyses are highly complex data sets. Data handling and efficient bioinformatic analysis is of fundamental importance to make complex therapy decisions against the background of a dynamically developing cancer genome. Computational tools developed within our scientific network give detailed insights into the clonal composition and clonal evolution of tumors under therapeutic pressure. Drug response and drug resistance can be predicted in a very detailed manner.

What makes us special?


The MSSO program is aimed at scientifically active physicians (Physician Scientists) and scientists working in cancer research (Medical Scientists). The program is an opportunity of continuous insight into translational cancer research and clinical oncology from an early point of their professional career.


Guided by dedicated research group leaders in an international research community, students conduct top‐notch research, gaining independence to achieve their potential in a fast‐paced but supportive environment. Curiosity, creativity, and diversity, as well as collaborations are key to our program philosophy.

Cutting edge technologies

Cutting edge technologies such as next generation genome sequencing, high-throughput in vitro screening and genomic mapping of responses, the use of innovative genetically engineered mouse models of cancer, in vivo imaging and in vivo response assessments.


Formal classes flank the forward-thinking, innovative approaches generated in the lab, where we strive for novel discoveries. Supplementary lectures and courses, guest seminars, progress reports, advanced method courses and workshops as well as scientific soft skills training complete the program.

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Governance panels

Excecutive board

Speaker: Prof. Dr. med. Christian Reinhardt
Vice Speaker: Prof. Dr. med. Michael Hallek / Chairman Executive Board CIO-ABCD
Dean Medical Faculty Cologne: Prof. Dr. med. Gereon Fink
Dean Medical Faculty Bonn: Prof. Dr. med. Nicolas Wernert
Speaker Training Program: Prof. Dr. med. Michael Hölzel
Speaker Physician Scientists: Prof. Dr. med. Jennifer Landsberg
Speaker Medical Scientists: Dr. rer. nat. Silvia von Karstedt


Prof. Dr. med. Arnold Ganser, Hannover Medical School
Prof. Dr. Simone Fulda, Goethe University Frankfurt / University Hospital Frankfurt am Main
Prof. Dr. Daniel Rauh, TU Dortmund University
Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Dobbelstein, University of Göttingen
Prof. Dr. Dieter Saur, University Hospital rechts der Isar / Technical University of Munich
Prof. Dr. Stefan M. Pfister, Heidelberg University Hospital
Prof. Dr. Roland Rad, University Hospital rechts der Isar / Technical University of Munich