The Deutsche Krebsforschungszentrum (DKFZ) Heidelberg was founded as a non-profit organization and supraregional research center by the Land (state) Baden-Württemberg in 1964. It was constituted as a foundation of public law. Since 1975, it has been a Großforschungseinrichtung (National Research Center). It is mainly funded by the Bundesforschungsministerium (Federal Ministry for Research and Technology) (90 %) and by the Ministerium für Forschung und Wissenschaft (Ministry for Research and Sciences) of the Land Baden-Württemberg (10 %). Additional funding is obtained by other public and private sources e.g. the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Science Association), special projects of the European Union (EU), of Federal and State ministries as well as cooperations with the industry and also private donations to the foundation.
In accordance with its Statutes and Articles, it is the task of the Center to engage in cancer research. "Cancer research", a term which every discipline defines quite differently. In a center with a multi-disciplinary structure, the discussion about the research program is a continuous balancing process.
Cancer is a worldwide problem of tremendous extent. As far as Germany is concerned, 210,000 patients die of cancer every year and close to 350,000 new cases are identified anually. In contrast to infectious diseases, cancer is characterized by the fact, that differences between cancer cells and normal cells are often limited to only a few minor changes in the genome. Hitherto, the identification of these changes has not been fully completed in any type of cancer, although research in this area is proceeding continuously. New methodological approaches combining molecular biological, cytological and immunological techniques provide rapid progress for the understanding of carcinogenesis, the evaluation of cancer risk factors, in cancer prevention and diagnosis. Even in cancer therapy, first promising results have already been achieved. Although these "modern" approaches are emphazised in the cancer research of the DKFZ, the socalled "traditional" approaches still kept their importance. Moreover, the interference of both approaches in conception and methodology seems to offer new chances for successful research.
After the dissolution of the former institutes, a new program-oriented organisational structure of the DKFZ was adopted in 1991. The new structure resulted already in greater flexibility and enhanced interdisciplinary cooperation and consultation. The uptake of new scientific approaches is speeded up, e.g. by the integration of younger scientists in non-tenure divisions. Today, multidisciplinary cancer research is performed by more than 50 divisions and working groups with and without tenure. The majority of the division heads is appointed jointly with the University of Heidelberg.
In 1992, the new building for the research program "Applied Tumor Virology" was finished and additional laboratories became available. Since 1994 clinical cooperation units have been established. Currently, preparations are ongoing to enforce the human genome research program of the centre.