Roland Mertelsmann

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Roland Mertelsmann

Roland Mertelsmann (born October 5, 1944 in Hameln ) is a German hematologist and oncologist . Until his retirement he was professor at the University Clinic Freiburg , Department of Internal Medicine I (hematology / oncology). Mertelsmann is known for his scientific work in the fields of hematology, oncology, gene therapy and stem cell research .


Mertelsmann studied medicine at the Georg-August University in Göttingen from 1966 to 1968 . From 1966 to 1968 he was a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine with Heinrich Matthaei in Göttingen. From 1968 to 1978 he worked as a research assistant at the School of Medicine at King's College London , as well as at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, then in various internship and postdoc positions in medicine and surgery in Germany and the USA. From 1976 to 1978 Mertelsmann held a fellowship in hematology and clinical oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center , New York. There he was involved in the isolation of the blood-stimulating growth factor G-CSF , the administration of which allows patients to recover more quickly from chemotherapy and radiation therapy that damage the bone marrow and better protect them from severe infections. From 1978 to 1986 he was an assistant doctor in the USA, then until 1986 senior doctor at the Memorial Hospital of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The American specialist examinations for internal medicine, hematology and oncology were passed, as were the corresponding exams in Germany. 1978 to 1982 he was assistant professor, 1982 to 1986 associate professor of medicine at Cornell University Medical School. In 1985 Mertelelsmann returned to Germany and accepted a position as professor and chairman of the 3rd Medical Clinic for Hematology and Oncology at the Mainz University Clinic. In 1989 he was offered a position at the University of Freiburg. At the university clinic there, he was director of the Department of Medicine I, Oncology, Hematology and Stem Cell Transplantation , where he retired in April 2012.

During his entire university career as a university lecturer, Mertelsmann promoted the next generation of academics with more than 40 postdoctoral degrees. He has filled numerous management positions at universities and in industry with former employees. In 2008 he initiated and founded the International Master Program in Biomedical Sciences , a cooperation between the Universities of Freiburg and Buenos Aires aimed at international biomedical master students. In 2014 he initiated the foundation of the JOSHA magazine, an internet platform that addresses the spectrum of important discoveries and creativity in science, humanity and art. Mertelsmann published more than 400 articles in medical journals.

Scientific contribution

Mertelsmann's experimental, translational and clinical work is dedicated to the challenge of better understanding malignant diseases and, based on this understanding, developing new therapeutic concepts.

Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Malignancy - First Description of Human RNA Polymerase

After Heinrich Matthaei and Marshall Nirenberg discovered the genetic code (1962), Mertelsmann began his medical doctoral thesis with Heinrich Matthaei at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen with the first detection of a human RNA polymerase . Since nucleic acid synthesis is one of the main points of attack of classic cytostatics , in the following years he investigated DNA polymerases , especially terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase (TdT), and RNA polymerases as diagnostic and prognostic markers in leukemia and lymphoma in his working groups .

Studied pathophysiology and molecular biology of cancer cells

Questions about the plasticity of haematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells (HSC), i.e. H. the differentiation of HSC into mature cells of other organs were intensively investigated together with Alexandros Spyridonidis . These studies showed that the phenomenon exists but is very rare. Together with the Binder, Trepel and Dierks working groups, he investigated the molecular mechanisms of the pathophysiology of B-cell neoplasms , and the pathogenetic significance of granulocytes in the graft-versus-host reaction with the Zeiser working group.

Clinical significance of the leukemia phenotype

The systematic analysis of all patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) treated at the MSKCC defined the importance of cytology , cell growth in vitro and enzymatic markers for the classification and prognostic subdivision of AML. Through the systematic application of all methods for phenotypic classification available at the time, it was possible to identify new entities and to publish them for the first time.

New therapeutic modalities

In cooperation with Karl Welte , the purification and molecular characterization of cytokines at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York was one of the focal points in his laboratory. Both interleukin-2 and G-CSF were displayed homogeneously, first translational and clinical studies on cytokines followed. Since experiments in murine models demonstrated that the local secretion of immunity-stimulating cytokines such as interleukin-2 led to the strong activation of the immune system with therapeutic effectiveness, this approach was also followed in humans. These investigations provided one of the foundations for the later, clinically successful gene therapy strategies .

Clinical tests

In clinical therapy studies for lymphomas and leukemia at the MSKCC and later in German study groups, both new therapy concepts with classic cytostatics and the use of novel concepts were tested. In rare tumor diseases, the innovative use of high-dose chemotherapy led to cures that were previously not achievable with historical controls and according to the literature.

As a clinically committed oncologist, Mertelsmann was also looking for strategies to improve quality of life. The systematic use of aerobic training programs in cancer patients under therapy was very successful and is now used nationally and internationally.

Scientific misconduct

In 1997 Mertelsmann was involved in the largest counterfeit scandal in German medical history against Friedhelm Herrmann . It was about the falsification of laboratory data that had been used in scientific publications. An investigative commission could not prove that Mertelsmann was actively involved in the falsification of laboratory data, but it could prove a "serious" violation of his duty to supervise and thus scientific misconduct. The falsity of disputed laboratory data was not invalidated. The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science agreed with the commission's judgment.

Memberships in scientific associations

Mertelsmann is a member of many international scientific associations and a member of the editorial board of science journals, including many years with the European Journal of Cancer and Annals of Hematology . Among other things, he was founding president of the German Working Group for Gene Therapy (DAG-GT), founding member and board member of CellGenix Technologie Transfer GmbH, founder and president of the BioThera Foundation to support the research and further education of students, scientists and doctors with a focus on cancer research, founding member of the Comprehensive Cancer Center Freiburg (CCCF), initiator and director of the International Biomedical Exchange Program (IMEP), founder of the ARGER Foundation, reviewer of the SRC-SDARF-UJDRF Joint Program in Stem Cell Research, Stockholm and President of the International Association for Comparative Research on Leukemia and related Diseases (IACRLD).

Other selected memberships:

Awards and honors

  • 1976 Konjetzny Prize for Cancer Research
  • 1980 Vincenz Czerny Award for Cancer Research (DGHO)
  • 1982 Boyer Award for Clinical Investigation (MSKCC)
  • 1985 Warner Award for Cancer Research (Warner Foundation)
  • 1990 Hamilton-Farley Award (ESMO)
  • 2000 Excellency Award, 13th International Symposium, Molecular Biology of Hematopoiesis, New York, USA
  • 2005 Professor honoris causa, Universidad del Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 2007 Doctor honoris causa, University “Gr. T. Popa “, Iasi, Romania
  • 2008 Professor honoris causa, Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 2011 Doctor honoris causa, Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina


Articles in specialist magazines

Books (selection)

  • The Blue Book: Chemotherapy Manual Hematology and Internal Oncology. 5th edition. Springer Medicine, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-642-41740-5 .
  • The Red Book: Hematology and Internal Oncology. 5th, revised. and exp. Edition. ecomed Medicine, Heidelberg 2014, ISBN 978-3-609-51217-4 .
  • with Monika Engelhardt: Perspectives for future medicine and a changing image of doctors. Rombach 2008, ISBN 978-3-7930-5038-4 .
  • Leukemias and malignant lymphomas. Thieme, Stuttgart 1981.
  • with Monika Engelhardt, Dietmar P. Berger and Philippe Moreau (eds.): Précis d'hématologie et d'oncologie. Springer, Paris 2011, ISBN 978-2-287-99341-1 .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Roland Mertelsmann CV (to all awards)
  2. IMBS
  3. JOSHA
  4. ^ R. Mertelsmann: Purification and some properties of a soluble DNA-dependent. RNA polymerase from nuclei of human placenta. In: Eur J Biochem. 1969 Jun; 9 (3), pp. 311-318. PMID 5795512
  5. R. Mertel man, as Koziner, DA Filippa, E. Grossbard, G. Incefy, MA Moore, BD Clarkson: Clinical significance of TdT, cell surface markers and CFU-C in 297 patients with hematopoietic neoplasias. In: Haematol Blood Transfus. 1979; 23, pp. 131-138. PMID 317470 . Prof. em. Dr. Drs. Hc Roland Mertelsmann
  6. ^ R. Mertelsmann: Plasticity of bone marrow-derived stem cells. In: J Hematother Stem Cell Res. 2000 Dec; 9 (6), pp. 957-960. Review. PMID 11177610
  7. A. Spyridonidis, R. Mertelsmann, J. Finke: Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: more than just hematopoietic? In: J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2004 Mar; 130 (3), pp. 127-134. Epub 2004 Jan 16th Review. PMID 14727105
  8. M. Binder, F. Müller, M. Frick, C. Wehr, F. Simon, B. Leistler, H. Veelken, R. Mertelsmann, M. Trepel: CLL B-cell receptors can recognize themselves: alternative epitopes and structural clues for autostimulatory mechanisms in CLL. In: Blood. 2013 Jan 3; 121 (1), pp. 239–241. doi: 10.1182 / blood-2012-09-454439 . PMID 23287626
  9. C. Dierks, J. Grbic, K. Zirlik, R. Beigi, NP Englund, GR Guo, H. Veelken, M. Engelhardt, R. Mertelsmann, JF Kelleher, P. Schultz, M. Warmuth: Essential role of stromally induced hedgehog signaling in B-cell malignancies. In: Nat Med. 2007 Aug; 13 (8), pp. 944-951. Epub 2007 Jul 15. PMID 17632527 .
  10. L. Schwab, L. Goroncy, S. Palaniyandi, S. Gautam, A. Triantafyllopoulou, A. Mocsai, W. Reichardt, FJ Karlsson, SV Radhakrishnan, K. Hanke, A. Schmitt-Graeff, M. Freudenberg, FD von Loewenich, P. Wolf, F. Leonhardt, N. Baxan, D. Pfeifer, O. Schmah, A. Schönle, SF Martin, R. Mertelsmann, J. Duyster, J. Finke, M. Prinz, P. Henneke, H. Häcker, GC Hildebrandt, G. Häcker, R. Zeiser: Neutrophil granulocytes recruited upon translocation of intestinal bacteria enhance graft-versus-host disease via tissue damage. In: Nat Med. 2014 Jun; 20 (6), pp. 648-654. doi: 10.1038 / nm.3517 . Epub 2014 May 18. PMID 24836575
  11. ^ R. Mertelsmann, MA Moore, B. Clarkson: Leukemia cell phenotype and prognosis: an analysis of 519 adults with acute leukemia. In: Blood Cells. 1982; 8 (3), pp. 561-583. PMID 6984348
  12. R. Mertelsmann, H. Tzvi Thaler, L. To, TS Gee, S. McKenzie, P. Schauer, A. Friedman, Z. Arlin, C. Cirrincione, B. Clarkson: Morphological classification, response to therapy, and survival in 263 adult patients with acute nonlymphoblastic leukemia. In: Blood. 1980 Nov; 56 (5), pp. 773-781. PMID 6932977 .
  13. N. Ciobanu, M. Andreeff, B. Safai, B. Koziner, R. Mertelsmann: Lymphoblastic neoplasia in a homosexual patient with Kaposi's sarcoma. In: Ann Intern Med. 1983 Feb; 98 (2), pp. 151-155. PMID 6572044 .
  14. R. Mertel man, as Koziner, R. Ralph, D. Filippa, S. McKenzie, ZA Arlin, TS Gee, MA Moore, BD Clarkson: Evidence for distinct lymphocytic and monocytic populations in a patient with terminal transferase - positive acute leukemia. In: Blood. 1978 Jun; 51 (6), pp. 1051-1056. PMID 274159
  15. K. Welte, CY Wang, R. Mertelsmann, S. Venuta, SP Feldman, MA Moore: Purification of human interleukin 2 to apparent homogeneity and its molecular heterogeneity. In: J Exp Med. 1982 Aug 1; 156 (2), pp. 454-464. PMID 6980256 PMC 2186775 (free full text)
  16. K. Welte, E. Platzer, L. Lu, JL Gabrilove, E. Levi, R. Mertelsmann, MA Moore: Purification and biochemical characterization of human pluripotent hematopoietic colony-stimulating factor. In: Proc Natl Acad Sci U.S.A. 1985 Mar; 82 (5), pp. 1526-1530. PMID 3871951 PMC 397296 (free full text)
  17. ^ R. Mertelsmann, K. Welte, C. Sternberg, R. O'Reilly, MA Moore, BD Clarkson, HF Oettgen: Treatment of immunodeficiency with interleukin-2: initial exploration. In: J Biol Response Mod. 1984 Oct; 3 (5), pp. 483-490. PMID 6334136
  18. H. Glimm, K. Flügge, D. Möbest, VM Hofmann, J. Postmus, R. Henschler, W. Lange, J. Finke, HP Kiem, G. Schulz, F. Rosenthal, R. Mertelsmann, C. von Kalle: Efficient serum-free retroviral gene transfer into primitive human hematopoietic progenitor cells by a defined, high-titer, nonconcentrated vector-containing medium. In: Hum Gene Ther. 1998 Apr 10; 9 (6), pp. 771-778. PMID 9581900 .
  19. H. Veelken, A. Mackensen, M. Lahn, G. Köhler, D. Becker, B. Franke, U. Brennscheidt, P. Kulmburg, FM Rosenthal, H. Keller, J. Hasse, W. Schultze-Seemann, EH Farthmann, R. Mertelsmann, A. Lindemann: A phase-I clinical study of autologous tumor cells plus interleukin-2-gene-transfected allogeneic fibroblasts as a vaccine in patients with cancer. In: Int J Cancer. 1997 Jan 27; 70 (3), pp. 269-277. PMID 9033626
  20. G. Stingl, EB Brŏcker, R. Mertelsmann, K. Wolff, S. Schreiber, E. Kămpgen, A. Schneeberger, W. Dummer, U. Brennscheid, H. Veelken, ML Birnstiel, K. Zatloukal, W. Schmidt , G. Maass, E. Wagner, M. Baschle, M. Giese, ER Kempe, HA Weber, T. Voigt: Phase I study on the immunotherapy of metastatic malignant melanoma by a cancer vaccine consisting of autologous cancer cells transfected with the human IL-2 genes. In: Hum Gene Ther. 1996 Mar 1; 7 (4), pp. 551-563. PMID 8800750
  21. R. Mertelsmann, RL Drapkin, Gee TS, S. Kempin, S. yoke, Thaler HT, Z. Arlin, M. Dowling, P. Dufour, S. McKenzie, L. To, E. Comacho, Oettgen HF, JH Burchenal, B. Clarkson: Treatment of acute nonlymphocytic leukemia in adults: response to 2,2-anhydro-1-BD-arabinofuranosyl-5-fluorocytosine and thioguanine on the L-12 protocol. In: Cancer. 1981 Nov 15; 48 (10), pp. 2136-2142. PMID 6170414
  22. M. Pfreundschuh, J. Schubert, M. Ziepert, R. Schmits, M. Mohren, E. Lengfelder, M. Reiser, C. Nickenig, M. Clemens, N. Peter, C. Bokemeyer, H. Eimermacher, A . Ho, M. Hoffmann, R. Mertelsmann, L. Trümper, L. Balleisen, R. Liersch, B. Metzner, F. Hartmann, B. Glass, V. Poeschel, N. Schmitz, C. Ruebe, AC Feller, M. Loeffler: German High-Grade Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Study Group (DSHNHL). Six versus eight cycles of bi-weekly CHOP-14 with or without rituximab in elderly patients with aggressive CD20 + B-cell lymphomas: a randomized controlled trial (RICOVER-60). In: Lancet Oncol. 2008 Feb; 9 (2), pp. 105-116. doi : 10.1016 / S1470-2045 (08) 70002-0 . Epub 2008 Jan 15. PMID 18226581
  23. O. Determann, E. Hoster, G. Ott, H. Wolfram Bernd, C. Loddenkemper, M. Leo Hansmann, TE Barth, M. Unterhalt, W. Hiddemann , M. Dreyling , W. Klapper: European Mantle Cell Lymphoma Network and the German Low Grade Lymphoma Study Group. Ki-67 predicts outcome in advanced-stage mantle cell lymphoma patients treated with anti-CD20 immunochemotherapy: results from randomized trials of the European MCL Network and the German Low Grade Lymphoma Study Group. In: Blood. 2008 Feb 15; 111 (4), pp. 2385-2387. Epub 2007 Dec 12. PMID 18077791
  24. HP Koeffler, D. Heitjan, R. Mertelsmann, JE Kolitz, P. Schulman, L. Itri, P. Gunter, E. Besa: Randomized study of 13-cis retinoic acid v placebo in the myelodysplastic disorders. In: Blood. 1988 Mar; 71 (3), pp. 703-708. PMID 3278754 . 309: W. Hiddemann, H. Kreutzmann, K. Straif, WD Ludwig, R. Mertelsmann, M. Planker, R. Donhuijsen-Ant, E. Lengfelder, Z. Arlin, T. Büchner: High-dose cytosine arabinoside in combination with mitoxantrone for the treatment of refractory acute myeloid and lymphoblastic leukemia. In: Semin Oncol. 1987 Jun; 14 (2 Soup 1), pp. 73-77. PMID 3473685
  25. ^ EJ Gold, RH Mertelsmann, LM Itri, T. Gee, Z. Arlin, S. Kempin, B. Clarkson, MA Moore: Phase I clinical trial of 13-cis-retinoic acid in myelodysplastic syndromes. In: Cancer Treat Rep. 1983 Nov; 67 (11), pp. 981-986. PMID 6580071
  26. L. Houet, I. Möller, M. Engelhardt, G. Köhler, H. Schmidt, D. Herchenbach, M. Schnitzler, A. Schmitt-Graeff, AA Jungbluth, R. Mertelsmann, B. Rumstadt, CF Waller: Long -term remission after CD34 + -selected PBSCT in a patient with advanced intra-abdominal desmoplastic small round-cell tumor. In: Bone Marrow Transplant. 2010 Apr; 45 (4), pp. 793-795. doi: 10.1038 / bmt.2009.226 . Epub 2009 Aug 31. PMID 19718066 PMC 3147145 (free full text)
  27. F. Dimeo, H. Bertz, J. Finke, S. Fetscher, R. Mertelsmann, J. Keul: An aerobic exercise program for patients with haematological malignancies after bone marrow transplantation. In: Bone Marrow Transplant. 1996 Dec; 18 (6), pp. 1157-1160. PMID 8971388 .
  28. Ulrich Schnabel: FINDING TRUTH
    The fall is deep: Roland Mertelsmann, once celebrated
    Gene therapy pioneer and much sought-after expert, has to live with the stigma of "scientific misconduct". This is the verdict of the German Research Foundation (DFG) on the Freiburg cancer doctor, whose department was shaken by the largest case of falsification in German science (ZEIT No. 28/00). Mertelsmann is not accused of actively falsifying. However, the DFG accuses him of neglecting his duty of supervision "seriously", of not having fulfilled his responsibility "as a senior scientist". The consequence: The DFG excludes Mertelsmann from its committees and from submitting applications for a total of five years (two of which are retroactive). A judgment that leaves nothing to be desired in terms of clarity.
    In: The time . September 9, 2013, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed February 14, 2018]).
  29. Klaus Koch: Counterfeiting scandal - barred and sewn up. on:
  30. ARGER Foundation