© The Nobel Foundation. Photo: U. Montan
Harald zur Hausen
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008
Born: 11 March 1936, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany
Prize motivation: "for his discovery of human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer."
Prize share: 1/2
The growth, division, and death of living cells are regulated by their genes. If these functions are out of balance, tumors can form. One reason for this may be the incorporation of virus genes into the genes of host cells. Harald zur Hausen demonstrated in 1983 that cervical cancer in humans is caused by certain types of papilloma viruses (wart viruses), the genes from which are incorporated into the host cells' DNA. This discovery made it possible to develop a vaccine against cervical cancer, which had been the second most common tumor disease in women.