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Interview Matthias Endres

In August, Wolfgang Böhmerle, Matthias Endres and Petra Hühnchen received the Paper of the Month award. We asked them about the research and the project.

What are you researching? What is the core of your research?

Our research group is interested in secondary neurological complications caused by cancer therapies. The reason for this interest is that neurotoxic phenomena are one of the most common side effects of many cytostatics (substances that inhibit cell growth). These may affect the peripheral nervous system (chemotherapy-induced neuropathy – CIN) or lead to diffuse changes in cognitive functions (chemotherapy-induced memory dysfunctions). Both illnesses are still not well understood and there are no treatment options. At the same time, they significantly restrict quality of life for those affected, and often lead to discontinuation of the tumor therapy.

The goal of our research is to understand the underlying mechanisms and use a translational approach to improve quality of life for the affected patients.

What is the core message of your publication and how does your study differ from the work of other scientists in this field?

In our pre-clinical work, we established a mouse model which allowed us to investigate memory disorders that were caused by the cytostatic agent Paclitaxel. Initially, we investigated the amount of Paclitaxel in various areas of the mouse brain. We discovered an increased concentration in the hippocampus formation, a structure essential for learning and memory. Detailed tissue investigations on this structure after Paclitaxel treatment showed a significantly reduced formation of new neurons from stem cells. In subsequent steps, various cell models were used to investigate the damage mechanism as well as establish strategies for protecting the neurons. A preventative lithium treatment turned out to be an approach that was potentially easy to translate pharmacologically, both in the cell and the animal model. Our study expands existing literature with regard to the underlying damage mechanisms and establishes a possible prevention strategy.

Which cooperation partners have contributed to the publication? Who was significantly involved?

The publication was compiled in collaboration with the BIH Core Facility Stem Cells in close coordination with Dr. Harald Stachelscheid and with the Mass Spectrometry Core Facility of FU Berlin under the leadership of Dr. Andreas Springer. Both partner institutions were essential for the integrative approach of the work.

What next steps are planned for the project and what are the possible implications of your results for patients?

At the moment, we are carrying out a longitudinal observational study on secondary neurological complications in female patients with ovarian and breast carcinoma treated with Paclitaxel in collaboration with the Department of Gynecology at Campus Virchow-Klinikum and the Charité Breast Center. Along with our pre-clinical work, this data serves as the foundation for a planned interventional study with lithium (Investigator Initiated Trial – IIT). Hence, the objective here is clinical translation and the future improvement of quality of life for oncological patients.