Meet Professor Gűnter Stalla expert on pituitary disease & ECE 2019 Award Lecturer

Meet Professor Gűnter Stalla, who has been awarded the 2019 Geoffrey Harris Award. He is Director of Medicover Neuroendocrinology and Senior Researcher at the University of Munich. His research is focuses on mechanisms of hypo- and hyperpituitarisms and the development of new therapies for pituitary disorders. He will be delivering his Award Lecture at ECE 2019, 18-21 May in Lyon.

What are you presenting at ECE 2019?

I will be presenting an overview of my contributions to endocrinology, starting with the development of the first accurate measurement of corticotropin-releasing hormone that opened up opportunities for my research not only in endocrinology but also in psychiatry. I will also describe the contributions of my team to translational science in the field of pituitary adenomas. We have discovered new molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis, as well as potential new treatment. Our achievements highlight the huge impact that research has on the treatment of patients and the improvement of their quality of life.

What has been your most surprising finding?

For many years we have been trying to find mutations and signalling mechanisms that might explain the development of endocrine tumours. Even though there are many success stories in the field, many mysteries remain and we still have only a rudimentary understanding of how some endocrine tumours arise.

What are you looking forward to at ECE 2019 and what would you recommend to others?

ECE is always a good opportunity to connect with colleagues who are passionate about making progress in our understanding of endocrine diseases. While other endocrine societies focus on basic regulation mechanisms, endocrinology in Europe tends to stay closer to the application of scientific knowledge to finding new treatments and improving patient care. I look forward to young European endocrinologists bringing new points of view to the table. ECE is always a great venue to showcase their newest ideas and results.

What has been your proudest professional experience so far?

I am proud to have had the chance to guide the careers of many young scientists and medical doctors in my group over the years, and still keep track of their scientific achievements and the excellent positions they have moved on to all over the world.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your research area right now?

The fact that many endocrine tumours are so similar to normal cells poses particular medical challenges. In other areas, cancer cells can be targeted selectively as they behave differently from normal cells. Endocrine diseases are often produced by abnormal cells that secrete only a little more or less of a hormone but as they are such potent messengers, this can cause great harm to the delicate physiological balance of the body.

What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

I think it will be advances in ’omics, or ‘omics 2.0. Genomics is just the tip of the iceberg; proteomics, phosphomics, methylomics and metabolomics promise to identify new mechanisms that will enable us to understand the underlying complexity of endocrine diseases and facilitate the development of targeted therapies. I expect more personalised treatments to become common in the future.

There will also be progress in managing diabetes with better monitoring devices and a 'bionic' pancreas. With closer cooperation between oncology and endocrinology we should also see improvements in preservation of fertility after cancer treatment and better management of endocrinopathies after checkpoint inhibitors.

Any words of wisdom for young endocrinologists attending ECE 2019?

Open up and collaborate, share your ideas and results with other researchers. It is the only way to make progress in a field where the complexity is too much for any single individual to make a significant impact.

Who do you admire most and why?

All supporters and advocates of the European Union, we are all Europeans!

You can hear Professor Gűnter Stalla’s Geoffrey Harris Award Lecture, “Translational research in pituitary disease” on Saturday 18 May, at 14:45. Find out more about the ECE 2019 scientific programme.