On 17 November 2015, Dr. Wilhelm Polster, chairman of the charitable foundation Manfred-Roth-Stiftung, presented another generous check to Prof. Dr. Werner G. Daniel, chairman of Forschungsstiftung Medizin at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. The donation of 50,000 euros will be used to support the research project being carried out by the working group led by Dr. Anja M. Boos, attending physician at the Department of Plastic and Hand Surgery (director: Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Raymund E. Horch) at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. The researchers’ aim is to improve treatment for cancer patients and other patients with lymphoedema. ‘We are all very grateful for this generous donation that has enabled us to provide secure research funding,’ Prof. Daniel said as the cheque was presented. Prof. Horch added: ‘We are currently working on developing an autonomous lymphatic vessel system for use in regenerative medicine. The money is therefore being used for a specific project that will hopefully soon help people suffering from illness.’
Lymphoedema, a form of fluid retention that is usually recognised through the severe swelling of the affected part of the body, is sometimes an undesired side effect of cancer therapy. At the same time, the lymphatic vessels play a key role in the spread of cancer cells in the body. Changes in the lymphatic vessels are a common consequence of tumour growth – and this is where the research project being carried out by Dr. Boos and her team comes in. By improving the understanding of this growth process, the researchers are contributing to the development of new forms of therapy for treating tumours, as well as better methods for dealing with lymphoedema.
‘I am pleased to be able to support medical research in tribute to my late best friend,’ Dr. Polster said at the ceremony during which the cheque was presented at the Department of Plastic and Hand Surgery. ‘I also have a strong personal connection to Universitätsklinikum Erlangen – having been a counsellor here for over 20 years – and I am therefore delighted that the board agreed with my suggestion to support Dr. Boos’ working group.’ Prof. Daniel also hopes that this donation will motivate other potential donors, as he believes ‘every euro that we invest in medical research today will benefit our health tomorrow!'[IC1]
From model to application
Disruptions in the lymphatic vessel system lead to a variety of health impairments, all of which stem from the functions of the lymphatic system. Wounds may not heal properly, the immune system may be weakened, metastases can spread through the lymphatic system and lymphoedema may develop, having a severe effect on the sufferer’s well-being and quality of life. Lymphoedema can currently only be treated insufficiently with complex physical decongestive therapy or, in special cases, with lymph node or lymphatic vessel transplants. While removing lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels for transplants is technically possible, it is associated with a degree of risk.
Dr. Boos’ working group have already successfully completed their first experiments in which they engineered a model lymphatic vessel network. This is a promising approach to regenerative therapy for diseases of the lymphatic system. Mesenchymal stem cells and lymphatic growth factors will also be used to support the development of the lymphatic vessel network. This could allow a new form of treatment for patients with lymphoedema to be developed. In the future this method could potentially be used in other applications in both regenerative medicine and cancer therapy. The new model system will also be used in research on lymphangiogenesis and anti-lymphangiogenesis. Experiments on lymphangiogenesis, anti-lymphangiogenesis and metastasis could provide important information on the process of lymphangiogenesis and the interaction of stem cells and cancer cells, which could in turn lead to a better understanding of tumour lymphangiogenesis and lymphatic metastasis. In order to develop effective therapies in the future it is important to clarify the significance of stem cells in the interaction between lymphatic endothelial cells and cancer cells, and how this affects lymphatic metastasis and the progression of cancer.
The charitable foundation Manfred-Roth-Stiftung was named after Manfred Roth, an entrepreneur from Fürth who founded the supermarket chain Norma and passed away in 2010. Since 2014, the foundation’s chairman, Dr. Polster, has already presented three cheques, each worth over 20,000 euros, to doctors and researchers at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen in memory of his late friend. The first was presented to the Department of Medicine 1 – Gastroenterology, Pneumology and Endocrinology in June 2014 to establish a scholarship for nutrition research, the second to the Department of Medicine 2 – Cardiology and Angiology in December 2014 to support cardiology research, and the third to the Department of Otorhinolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery in February 2015 for special auditory training. All three of the projects that have been funded are running very successfully. A fourth donation of 50,000 euros was made in October 2015 and will allow the Department of Medicine 3 – Rheumatology and Immunology to start offering whole body cryotherapy.
Forschungsstiftung Medizin was established at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen in December 2007. The foundation promotes medical research in all areas, as well as education and development for students, doctors and researchers. It also supports issues in public healthcare (such as the public lecture that has now been held in Erlangen for 19 semesters) and other charitable projects. In recent years, it has supported a large number of individual research projects from all areas in medicine with a total of around three million euros.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Raymund E. Horch
Phone: +49 9131 8533277
Prof. Dr. Werner G. Daniel
Phone: +49 9131 8535301