Cancer Researcher Professor Arnold Graffi Dies in Berlin

03.02.2006 - (idw) Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin (MDC) Berlin-Buch

Professor Dr. Arnold Graffi, eminent physician and cancer researcher, died in Berlin on Monday, January 30, 2006 at the age of 95 following a long illness as announced by his family. "Professor Graffi was one of the pioneers of experimental cancer research of the 20th century in Germany", declared Professor Dr. Walter Birchmeier, scientific director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. Professor Graffi contributed significantly to the understanding of the development of cancer. In particular, his discoveries shed light on the processes of the development of cancer due to chemical substances and viruses, two of which bear his name. The major part of his research was performed between 1948 and 1975. During this period, he was department head at the former Academy Institute for Medicine and Biology in Berlin-Buch. There, he later became director of the Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, which was integrated into the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch after its founding in 1992.

Arnold Graffi was born on June 19, 1910 in Bistritz (Transylvania). From 1930 to 1935, he studied medicine in Marburg, Leipzig, and Tübingen and received his doctorate at the Charité in Berlin. There, he worked in the group of the surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch from 1937 to 1939. After that, Arnold Graffi continued his work in cancer research at the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Frankfurt/Main until 1940. Following interim positions in Prague and Budapest, he returned to Berlin in 1943, where he worked in a Schering AG research laboratory as well as with Nobel Prize laureate Otto Warburg at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Cell Physiology. He completed his Habilitation (postdoctoral qualification to become a professor) at the Humboldt University in Berlin and worked there until his retirement in 1975. Even after his retirement, he remained active for several years in cancer research in Berlin-Buch, focussing especially on problems of chemotherapy.

As early as the beginning of the 1960s, Professor Graffi developed a gene therapy concept for cancer as well as viral and and genetic diseases whose idea was to target and switch off disease-causing genes, making them inactive. Since then, this technology of gene silencing (keyword: short interfering RNA or siRNA) has become an important tool in molecular biology and biotechnology.

Professor Graffi was the recipient of numerous awards. In 1964, he was elected as a member of the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, and, in 1977, he received the academy's Cothenius Medal. In 1979, he was awarded the Paul Ehrlich Prize in Frankfurt/Main and, in 1984, the Helmholtz Medal of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin. In 1990, the University of Leipzig awarded him an honorary doctorate. In 1995, he received the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Apart from his academic work, Professor Graffi was also interested in painting and piano music.

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