Prof. Greten, you are the spokesperson for the LOEWE Centre FCI, which has been funded since 2019. Can you tell us something about how you came up with the idea to apply for a LOEWE Centre?
The idea for the Frankfurt Cancer Institute (FCI) came very early on. Shortly after I started here in Frankfurt in 2013, together with colleagues at the University Hospital (Professors Hubert Serve, Ivan Dikic and Karlheinz Plate), I thought about how we could better connect the interaction of basic science with clinical research and improve so-called translational research. We then came up with the idea of working together on an interdisciplinary basis within the framework of a new building that was to be constructed, and we contacted the state government to this end. The then Minister of Science, Boris Rhein, was very quickly convinced by our concept of constructing such a building. Fortunately, the German Cancer Aid also liked our project and supported us with a donation of 20 million euros. In order to implement the FCI's content-related concept, we have submitted an application for a LOEWE Centre below.
What exactly does the LOEWE Centre Frankfurt Cancer Institute deal with and why is it so important?
We try to mechanistically investigate relevant observations from the clinic, such as a lack of or different response to therapy, and to develop new therapy concepts that we then test clinically. It is important that clinical scientists and basic scientists, bioinformaticians and pharmaceutical chemists work closely together on the projects from the beginning and exchange information regularly. Only in this way can we learn from each other: the basic scientists from the clinicians about the relevant problems and the clinicians from the basic scientists with regard to preclinical methods. It is particularly important to integrate bioinformaticians into the respective projects at an early stage in order to be able to carry out appropriate analyses together and to plan experimental approaches.
Why did you decide to become a physician, especially with a focus on cancer research?
Studying medicine was the only thing that came into question for me. Even at school I had a great interest in science, but just as great was the interest in being clinically active and being able to treat and help patients. Studying medicine combines this in an ideal way.
At the end of 2022, you received the very pleasant news that the funding for LOEWE-FCI was extended by the Hessian Ministry of Science and Arts until 2025. Can you give us an insight: What have you been able to achieve so far through LOEWE and what do you hope to achieve in the following years?
We have succeeded in proving that our new interdisciplinary concept supported by the newly established technology platforms works. In addition to a large number of excellent publications, we have already been able to initiate several clinical studies to test our new results directly on patients. Some of these studies have already provided us with very promising data for cancer therapy, so that we are now planning to pursue these in further studies.
Is there already an idea of how things will continue after the funding?
The LOEWE Centre and the technology platforms are to be integrated into the Georg-Speyer-Haus. Next year, we (GSH including LOEWE-FCI) intend to apply for membership of the Gottfried-Wilhelme-Leibniz Science Association (WGL). As soon as the new building is ready for occupancy, we will then be able to fully implement the original idea and work on our projects in a joint building.
The Hessian LOEWE programme is unique in Germany - also because it funds basic research in particular. Why would you say it is so important?
Without the generous state support, we would never have been able to put our idea into practice. The funds required to set up such a Centre with all its platforms, professorships, working groups and projects are enormous and there is no other funding instrument in Germany or Europe that would otherwise have been considered for such a project.
A recurring discourse is the question of reconciling family and career - and until today, this question almost always goes to women. How was that for you, or how did you manage to reconcile both?
Ultimately, I was only able to achieve this by giving up my clinical work and focusing completely on basic science. When I was younger and without a family, it was possible to combine clinical work and science with the corresponding (high) time commitment. With a family, this is hardly possible without a loss of quality. However, I didn't want to let up on quality and especially didn't want to do bad medicine. Therefore, I decided to go into science in order to be able to do it at the level I had once set myself. As long as the system and the time requirements in the clinic do not change, this fundamental problem will not change for the time being and the combination of high-quality clinical work and science will only be an attractive option for a few young junior scientists.
About the Person
- Spokesman of the LOEWE Center Frankfurt Cancer Institute (FCI)
- Director of the Georg-Speyer-Haus in Frankfurt am Main
Published in ProLOEWE NEWS
Also in the second issue 2023 you can expect a wide variety of topics from the LOEWE projects: From research on plant-based agents against viruses and other pathogens, AI researched by White Box and presented in the context of Hessen animated, to new research approaches in tumor metabolism with Melek Canan Arkan as a newly appointed professor, to Dr. Tim Lüddecke as a young researcher at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and many more insights.
ProLOEWE faces this time with Prof. Dr. Florian R. Greten, speaker of the LOEWE Centre FCI and director of the Georg-Speyer-Haus in Frankfurt am Main. His scientific focus is on research into the development of colorectal cancer and the development of new therapeutic approaches.