Gerhard Kraft named Honorary President of ERRS
Professor Gerhard Kraft, the former Head of the Biophysics department of GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung, has been named the Honorary President of the European Radiation Research Society (ERRS). Gerhard Kraft initiated the use of ion beams for cancer treatment and founded the biophysical research department at GSI. He was named to this honorary position in recognition of his outstanding achievements, particularly in the fields of cancer research and heavy ion therapy.
The ERRS (formerly known as the European Society of Radiation Biology) is a European nonprofit organization for the promotion of radiation resarch. It was founded in 1959 in order to promote communication between scientists, especially in Europe. It does this by putting scientists into personal contact and holding annual conferences, which created networks throughout Europe even during the Cold War. The ERRS is an important platform for the discussion of new findings and processes in the field of radiation research.
Within about 20 years, the researchers at GSI in Darmstadt developed Kraft’s ion beam cancer treatment method from the basic physical and biological research to the stage of clinical application. This technique effectively destroys cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue untouched.
Gerhard Kraft created GSI’s biophysical research department in the early 1980s and was its director from 1981 to 2008. His vision was to develop an extremely precise irradiation technique that would fully bring to bear the advantages of ion beams: their precision and their intense biological effect. Between 1997 and 2008, GSI used ion beams to treat more than 440 patients for tumors of the head and throat with great success. The insights gained during the pilot project were directly incorporated into the Heidelberg Ion-Beam Therapy Center (HIT). Since 2009, the center has been using the technique developed at GSI to treat approximately 800 patients annually. In 2015 an ion-beam therapy facility also went into operation in Marburg.
Gerhard Kraft was involved in many initiatives for the development and adoption of ion beam therapy throughout Europe. He is also a founding member of the ion beam therapy initiative European Network for Research in Light Ion Hadron Therapy (ENLIGHT) at CERN. He has received many honors for his achievements, including the Helmholtz Association’s Erwin Schrödinger Prize in 1999 and the Officer’s Cross of Germany’s Order of Merit in 2008. He is also a recipient of the Bacq and Alexander Award, which is presented annually by the ERRS to an outstanding European scientist in order to honor achievements in the field of radiation research. Gerhard Kraft received this renowned award in 2006.