Honorary doctors 2018 - A reformer of prostate cancer screening

Submitted on Tue, 08/14/2018 - 09:03

Professor Fritz H. Schröder directed a European study whose results have major impact on men’s health

Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences MED

Professor Fritz H. Schröder is a well-known expert in the field of prostate cancer research. The connection between researchers in Tampere and Schröder was augmented during Professor Schröder’s extensive prostate cancer screening study whose Finnish part was conducted in Tampere. More than half of the men in the European multi-centre study were Finns.

“Among prostate cancer clinical trials, Schröder’s study is one of the most significant ones in the world. The screening study was definitely the highlight of Schröder's career,” says Professor Tapio Visakorpi, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences at the University of Tampere.

Prior to the study, there was no research evidence to support the screening of prostate cancer. In spite of this, active screening was a clinical routine in the 1990s.  

Schröder’s study discovered both benefits and disadvantages of screening. According to Visakorpi, an American study completed at the same time did not reach such a notable double result.

“Screening reduces cancer deaths by about twenty-five percent making it as effective as mammography screening to prevent breast cancer. The study also showed that screening helped to diagnose many cancers that do not need to be treated.

Over-diagnosis leads to unnecessary treatments, which undermines the quality of men’s lives. The research results informed screening practices. Today, the official position is that screening is not carried out at the national level but only at the patient’s own request. Doctors must also tell their patients about the potential disadvantages of screening.

Schröder will become an honorary doctor of the University of Tampere in August.

Rotterdam spearheads research

Schröder, who was born in Kassel, Germany, in 1937, is an urologist who started studying prostate cancer after earning his doctorate. In 1977, he became professor of urology at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

According to Visakorpi, Schröder’s research is one of the factors that made Rotterdam one of the top prostate cancer research centres in the world. In addition, Schröder's research approach is well-known in the field.

“At that time, it was not so common to simultaneously conduct laboratory analyses and clinical studies as in Schröder’s case. This was one of Rotterdam’s strengths,” Visakorpi explains.

Schröder’s work on prostate cancer has brought him several awards. In 2002, he was promoted to knighthood in the order of the Dutch Lion in 2002.

A gentleman well-known in Tampere

Apart from the fact that the European screening survey was a major undertaking for Tampere because of the co-ordinating role, it also gave rise to new research questions. Among other things, a study led by Professor Anssi Auvinen is investigating how to reduce the disadvantages of screening while retaining their proven twenty-five percent benefits, i.e. falling mortality rates.

The relationship between Tampere cancer researchers and Schröder started at the time of Professor of Epidemiology Matti Hakama. His successors, Auvinen, Visakorpi and Professor of Urology, Teuvo Tammela, have since continued the co-operation. Today, the Prostate Cancer Research Center continues the work in Tampere. Schröder gave a lecture at the Center’s opening ceremony.

Even after becoming professor emeritus, Schröder has been a familiar face in scientific conferences. He has also visited Tampere several times. According to Visakorpi, Schröder was happy to become an honorary doctor.

“He is an old-school gentleman, a warm and cordial person who has always been very friendly with us in Tampere. I am very happy to welcome him as an honorary doctor,” Visakorpi says.

Honorary Doctor, Professor Fritz H. Schröder gives a lecture in the Faculty’s celebratory symposium. The title of his talk is: Prostate Cancer – Can We Prevent It? Venue: Arvo-building, Jarmo Visakorpi auditorium, 16 August at 10-12, address: Arvo Ylpön katu 34

Honorary doctors of the Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences 2018:   
Professor of Medicine Virginia Kraus   
Professor Emeritus Fritz H. Schröder  
Professor, Director of CiRA Research Center Shinya Yamanaka