The Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Tumor and Virus Research – How it all began (Part 1/4)
The search for help and the desperate hope for a cure unite parents of children suffering from cancer. This is what initially brought you together in the 1980s and also led you to Dr. Jaroslav Cinatl, who was a research associate at Frankfurt University Hospital at the time. They all wanted the same thing: To enable more and better research for curing cancer in children. The idea of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Tumor and Virus Research was born; it emerged from a cooperation between the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and the Institute of Medical Virology at Frankfurt University Hospital with the goal of enabling better treatment options for children with cancer through applied basic research.
For almost 20 years, the Interdisciplinary Laboratory was housed in laboratory rooms of the Institute of Medical Virology, and soon Dr. Cinatl’s son, Prof. Jindrich Cinatl, took over the management of the newly created Interdisciplinary Laboratory from his father.
From the beginning, research in the Interdisciplinary Laboratory had two main focuses. One was concerned with the treatment of viral diseases, which pose a major threat to children with cancer whose immune systems are weakened (often by therapy, especially stem cell transplantation). The other focus was on identifying and investigating novel treatments for children with cancer. In this area, for example, the Interdisciplinary Laboratory was instrumental in the investigation and development of histone deacetylase inhibitors. Furthermore, the Interdisciplinary Laboratory dealt with research topics in the border area of oncology and virology: A new concept was developed (‘oncomodulation’), which describes how the infection of cancer cells with viruses can negatively influence the course of the disease. In addition, the use of so-called ‘oncolytic’ viruses for the treatment of cancer was investigated.
In 1994, the Frankfurt Foundation for Children with Cancer was founded out of the association Hilfe für krebskranke Kinder Frankfurt e.V. with the aim of directly supporting research. This was also done by affected parents. Just ten years later, the foundation was able to use the estate of Dr. Petra Joh, a business economist from Gelnhausen who died of cancer at the age of only 32, to build its own research house in Frankfurt’s Niederrad district, which opened in 2005 and is named after her. The Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Tumor and Virus Research has found its permanent home here.