Stained microglia cells (responsible for Glioblastoma brain tumors) treated with an experimental drug that stops cell division of tumor cells.

Did you know that…

8.8 million

… cancer was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015? Globally, nearly one in six deaths is due to cancer.2


… between 30 and 50% of cancer cases could currently be prevented?2

14 million

... there were approximately 14 million new cases of cancer in 2012?1

one third

… around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioral and dietary risks?2

"I’m Not Going to Lose This Battle"

If someone develops cancer, things will never be the same again. Life receives a whole new meaning, and everything is seen in a totally new light.
That's exactly what it was like for Heather Knies. At the age of 24 she had a brain tumor, and at 26 a glioblastoma, a malignant, aggressive tumor in her brain. Less than three percent of patients are still alive five years after such a diagnosis. "I'm not a statistic. This is not going to defeat me, I'm not going to lose this battle," is how Heather reacted after she received the diagnosis.
On both occasions she was operated on by a team led by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Robert F. Spetzler. To perform the surgery, they used modern medical technology such as fluorescence technology. Today, she is clear of cancer and has a little daughter. The story shows how leading-edge medical technology can assist doctors in removing tumors to the greatest extent possible without harming healthy tissue.

Read Heather's story here

Slowing or halting cancer growth

ZEISS's battle against cancer is not confined to neurosurgery. Another example is intraoperative radiotherapy, e.g. in the treatment of breast cancer. In science, too, ZEISS is making an important contribution: basic research in cell biology using ZEISS microscopes is helping to understand the mechanisms involved in the evolution of cancer. This understanding lays a sound foundation for the development of future approaches to therapy for various types of cancer. Using automated fluorescence microscopy, for example, researchers are observing living cancer cells to monitor and interfere with their division. This provides critical insights into the mechanisms of cancer proliferation, ultimately enabling strategies to slow or halt the growth of cancer.

Heather Knies with her family
Heather Knies with her family. She survived two brain tumors.
Researchers observing cells during division
Cancer research: researchers observing cells during division.

Basic Research, Diagnosis and Therapy

The role of ZEISS in fighting cancer

Basic Research, Diagnosis and Therapy

In cancer research, scientists often use microscopes to understand how healthy cells are different to cancer cells. Live cell imaging helps to monitor the dynamic processes in the cell cycle and is often used in cell or animal models. Autofluorescence or fluorescent labels help to distinguish tumor cells and tissue from healthy cells. Such basic research is the very foundation for the development of novel diagnosis, treatment, and cures.
The most groundbreaking research using microscopes in this area has even been awarded a Nobel Prize. Sir Paul M. Nurse, Leland H. Hartwell and Timothy Hunt were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2001. Their fundamental discoveries regarding the control of the cell cycle have a great impact on all aspects of cell growth. Defects in cell cycle control may lead to the type of chromosome alterations seen in cancer cells. In the long term, this can open new possibilities for cancer treatment. Harald zur Hausen received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2008. He revealed that a virus infection can cause cervical cancer – contrary to prevailing doctrines. His discovery was a starting point to successful construction of biosynthetic preventive vaccines against this carcinoma.

ZEISS Medical Technology helps doctors to identify and treat cancer - in a large number of different areas.
Early signs of an eye disease, e.g. ocular tumors, are often subtle and frequently occur in the outermost periphery of the retina. Ultra-widefield imaging provides doctors with better visibility of the entire fundus and hence enables early detection of ocular tumors. If a tumor, in the brain for example, has to be surgically removed, precise magnification through a surgical microscope is extremely important. The fluorescence technology often integrated into the surgical microscope additionally assits doctors in differentiating between diseased and healthy tissue. Intraoperative radiotherapy can then be used during the surgical removal of the tumor. Unlike external radiotherapy, this involves the tumor bed being irradiated immediately after the surgery. The surrounding healthy tissue is protected and, with breast cancer for example, follow-up radiotherapy can be reduced and in some cases even eliminated completely.
ZEISS is working on solutions for the future: a digital biopsy tool3 visualizes microstructures of the tissue in real time, enabling doctors to examine tissue samples immediately without needing to remove tissue.

Our contribution

Click on the dots on the interactive world map and see the examples of what ZEISS is contributing to cancer research, diagnosis and therapy.


How ZEISS is Supporting the Fight against Cancer

Researchers analyze the structures at chromosome ends

Looking for Ways to Halter Cancer Growth

Several widefield and confocal state-of-the-art microscope systems from ZEISS allow researchers in Sydney to analyze the structures at chromosome ends. With the help of high-resolution fluorescence microscopy and live cell imaging they observe cells in different division stages.

Read more

Researchers in Sydney examine cancer tissue

Paving New Ways for Cancer Research

With the help of ZEISS field emission scanning electron microscopy researchers in Sydney examine cancer tissue, characterize tumor cells and assist with patient prognostic assessment.

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“IORT is a real blessing for some patients”

From an “experimental non-traditional method” to a “blessing for some patients”: Breast surgeon Dr. Hans-Christian Kolberg talks about the developments in and benefits of intraoperative radiotherapy in breast cancer treatment.

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An Invention that Can Prolong Life

Removing a maximum amount of diseased tissue and - at the same time - not harming healthy tissue: fluorescence technology can help neurosurgeons walk this fine line during surgery on a brain tumor.

Read more



1 Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, Dikshit R, Eser S, Mathers C et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013:

2 Wolrd Health Organization:

Currently under development. ZEISS CONVIVO is a class 3R laser product in compliance with IEC60825-1. Caution: Investigational device, not for clinical use. Limited by law to investigational use. Not for sale. Future availability cannot be guaranteed.