Interview Dr. Gero Leneweit / Britta Bischoff-Krappel (freelancer Pforzheimer Zeitung) from 18 May 2019:
1. What was the focus of your research work last year?
In the last 12 months, we had 2 research focuses: firstly, the development of an innovative procedure with which we can bring tumour-active drugs of biological origin to the tumour by preparing them in liposomes and releasing them there. Secondly, we have begun to look at the possibilities of nutrition as an accompanying support for cancer therapy. We have investigated the immune-boosting effects of various food plants that can help alleviate the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of the therapy.
2. How has your research work developed compared to the previous year?
We have established new collaborative networks in Europe. In addition to the application of liposome technology for the targeted administration of mistletoe preparations, we have very thoroughly analysed which therapy approaches can additionally benefit from our liposome technology. We have found a very broad spectrum of possible applications, especially in cancer therapy, but also far beyond. In particular, all therapies that are based on complex active substances of biological origin, such as RNA or protein active substances, can benefit enormously from our technology. This can concern the direct transport of these active substances to the tumour, especially to tumours that have so far been very difficult and insufficiently accessible, such as brain tumours, for which we are now cooperating with French partners to develop a drug transport system that overcomes the blood-brain barrier and opens up new therapeutic possibilities. But also immunotherapies, in which the patient's immune system is trained to better recognise the antigens of the tumour and then fight the tumour with the body's own self-healing powers, are given new possibilities by our drug transport system by specifically transporting the drugs to the important immune organs such as the spleen.
3. What concrete results/new findings will you and your team present to the public, especially compared to last year?
We have completed a large research project with 4 partners and 1.5 million € EU funding. This resulted in a lot of new results and scientific publications in high-ranking journals, 4 in the last 12 months. We will present these concrete results. On the one hand, they show details of our pharmaceutical technology for the production of liposomes, on the other hand, the integration of mistletoe proteins, but also RNA, in liposomes and their targeted release in the tumour, for example through local, short-term hyperthermia. Here, scientific breakthroughs and groundbreaking steps for new therapy options were achieved. Essential for the success was the cooperation with the universities of Utrecht/Holland, Uppsala/Sweden and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
4 Where do you encounter limitations/particular challenges in your work?
Research into new cancer therapies needs staying power. The patience and necessary perseverance are often a challenge, especially for younger researchers. Fortunately, we have not yet reached any limits. We can be grateful for what we have achieved and hope that we will soon be able to share the research results with patients.
5. What do you particularly want to convey to the public at this year's presentation?
We want to show that there are exciting innovations in the field of herbal medicines that can improve cancer therapies of the future. And we see a great potential for self-help for patients, especially with a healthy diet, which is becoming important for us socially as prevention and therapy support. We would also like to show that Europe is present in our everyday lives and has also opened up important paths here in the Enzkreis through research funding, brings people from many countries together through research cooperation and helps small or medium-sized businesses through targeted impulses - an important message from everyday life, especially before the European elections.
In addition, networking in integrative oncology is also bearing further fruit: In 2019, the 7th symposium on mistletoe therapy will take place, which has been organised by Dr. Rainer Scheer from the Carl Gustav Carus Institute for 24 years and has attracted international attention. Over the decades, an ever stronger cooperation between therapy directions and between different professional groups has been established here. We also want to show this to all visitors, as many patients would like to have an accompanying treatment in cancer therapy and would like to convince their doctor of this.
6. To what extent do you think the new building will have a positive impact on the work of your institute?
We are looking forward to the improved working possibilities through more laboratory space, more efficient use of space and an organisational structure that will have a positive impact on team building. Currently, labs and office space are very far apart. Cooperation with our partners, the Öschelbronn Clinic and ABNOBA GmbH, will also change. All in all, a whole new dynamic will emerge on our premises in Öschelbronn together with the Johanneshaus, which we are very much looking forward to.
7. How many staff does the Institute currently have?
We currently have 3 full-time and 2 part-time scientists working internally on research. Externally, in cooperation projects with the Universities of Freiburg and Karlsruhe (KIT), 2 scientists are doing their PhDs on the research questions we have developed, and a third has successfully completed her PhD at the University of Utrecht in April 2019. Three interns are trained by us in the lab, including a Master's student from the University of Strasbourg. We have 2 part-time technical and 2 administrative positions, as well as 4 volunteers with high expertise who form our scientific non-profit supervisory board, which has developed a lot of vision for societal needs.
8. What are your visions/wishes for the future regarding the work of your research team?
We hope to start our technology development for cancer therapy in a currently applied research project with a large European consortium this year and to perfect it in the next 3 years to a point where clinical trials can be planned and conducted afterwards. We hope that this will enable us to double the size of our team in the medium term.
For the possibilities of contributing specifically to the prevention of cancer and other serious diseases through a healthy diet, we are working on the conception of a European research consortium. We have also networked with several partners for the further scientific development of anthroposophic medicine and pharmacy.
Our visions have a lot to do with the potentials that arise through interdisciplinary cooperation, across national borders, but also across cultural or across habits of thought, in order to serve the self-determination of human beings in questions of health and quality of life.