Sarah Hajji: A Richtzenhain Prize Winner and a Pioneer in Cancer Studies

Researcher and doctor, Sarah Hajji, is an Egyptian source of pride. She has recently won the international prize, Richtzenhain, for the best research in the field of cancer in Germany. Her new findings on cancer and how it’s affected by sex hormones are revolutionizing medicine. After so much work, she finally achieved her goal and even got her research funded.

As a young woman in high school, she went through a traumatic experience. A relative of hers died after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Since then, she has vowed to research cancer and treatment options. She found her way to the Faculty of Pharmacy and Biotechnology at the German University. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she specialized in cancer sciences and started her master’s, then got her Ph.D. at the University of Heidelberg.

She spent two years researching her master’s thesis, all while working as an assistant in several laboratories to make money for her studies. However, working in a laboratory opened the door for the field of hormones and their development. Up until recently, sex hormones were not in any way related to cancer. However, Hajji proved the contrary.

After 10 years of research, and being a Professor at the University of Hamburg, Germany, Hajji got the result and success she sought all along. The German Center for Cancer Research received 400 submitted papers, and out of the final seven research papers, Hajji’s was selected as the best research. She won the Richtzenhain prize for the best cancer research in Germany.

Research findings

Her research was about the effect of sex hormones, such as estrogens and androgens, on non-sex organs, like the intestine and pancreas. Her studies mostly focused on women. However, her experiments were on common fruit flies and mice, before experimenting on humans.

Hajji’s studies led her to a scientific breakthrough in the field of cancerous tumors. She discovered that sex hormones play a huge part in tumors. It was previously noticed that there are high levels of sex hormones around cancerous tumors, and now Hajji proved that there is a relationship between them.

The secreted hormones in the ovary attach to stem cells in the intestines. It’s where all other cells are generated, divided into more cells, all to do their own function. If there’s a malfunction in this process, complications might arise, such as the formation of more cells than the body can handle. This can lead to the intestines absorbing more than they can handle, which can lead to infections or cancerous tumors, according to the Middle East in 24.

Her discovery revolutionized cancer sciences, which ultimately got her the prize. Her research won the grant reward of an estimated $2.7 million from the Huntsman Cancer Institute in the United States to complete her research. Hajji’s two cents is that people need to focus on eating healthily. Animals are usually injected with hormones for growth, and when we eat them, it can be harmful.

“Eating from animal based protein may lead to cancer; I personally used to eat meat, but I have changed my diet and have become vegetarian, where I eat nuts to subtitute for animal products.”

Said Sarah Hajji

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