Hello, my name is Matthias Piesche. I am a scientist from Germany and my passion and my expertise is cancer immunology. Why I have chosen this career path? Because cancer still needs a cure and I want to help to make the difference that one day the diagnosis of cancer will not be a death sentence anymore. I graduated 2006 at the University of Goettingen, Germany, and worked then for 7 years at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School. During my research time at the Dana-Farber, I was surrounded by creative and great scientists who encouraged me to create my own ideas. I started then to develop a research idea of a new and better treatment option for cancer patients, focusing on skin (melanoma) and lung cancer.
To evaluate my research proposal I am seeking for funding. It is a difficult time to get support through the traditional funding agencies since the budget got tighter and tighter, and young scientists like me have to compete with the established professors, which reduces the chances of a successful grant proposal (See: A generation at risk: Young investigators and the future of biomedical research , 2014 PNAS). The number and quality of publications are important factors how scientific agencies evaluate new ideas. Therefore, a brilliant idea from a young scientist is sometimes not enough to get funding. Fortunately, there are people who believe and trust in good ideas and that is the reason why I am seeking for funding through “gofundme.com”. A professor at Aarhus University, Denmark, who showed enthusiasm and interest to my idea, offered me laboratory space where I can start to test the idea. However, he doesn’t have extra funding. Therefore, my goal is to raise enough money to evaluate the research idea.
Your donation will help to achieve the goal to evaluate the research idea forfinding a better cancer treatment that more patients will survive their cancer. A description of the planned research, including a timeline is summmarized below. The money will be spend solely for laboratory expenses (e.g.,chemicals, cell culture, plastic ware). Since this research is only possible because of your generous donations, I will publish the results in an open access journal that everybody has the possibility to read it. Please don’t hesitate to ask me if you want more details about the project or if you are interested to receive regular updates about the progress of the project. You want to know more about me and my professional background? Please have a look atwww.linkedin.com/in/matthiaspiesche. You can also follow me on twitter.
Thank you offer
>EUR 5: Every donor will receive a thank you note
>EUR 300: You can have an exclusive hour-long Skype chat with me. Need help with your science homework or just have a burning question? Now is your time to chat with me.
>EUR 2000: For your contribution of EUR2000 you will be exclusively acknowledged in the next publication. A great opportunity to tie your name to the cancer research forever! (Max. 5 available, 0/5 taken).
The figure that is shown below summarizes (A) the traditional treatment and(B) the new treatment idea that combines the traditional treatment with aspecific cancer immunotherapy that will help that more cancer patients will survive their cancer. Further down you can find a detailed explanation of the figures.
(A) How does a tumor evolve? Usually, it takes several steps before a healthy cell eventually becomes a tumor cell. Exposures to UV light during sun baths or smoking are two of the most prominent causes. A healthy cell changes, becomes tumorigenic, and starts to grow uncontrolled. Finally, the tumor becomes so big that doctors can detect it. Standard therapies like chemotherapy or radiation therapy aim to trigger cell death in all tumor cells but sparing the healthy tissue. The "regulated" cell death, called apoptosis, is a normal part of our daily lives. With this mechanism, the body has the ability to eliminate cells that are no longer required. Specific cells of the immune system, so called macrophages (“big eaters”), are then responsible to engulf the dead cells. Usually, that is a good thing because you want to remove the dead cells before they accumulate and poison the body. However, this process is inhibiting the immune system, because dead cells are generally not dangerous and you don’t want to activate the immune cells because an overactivation of immune cells can harm the body. On the other hand, in most cases the available treatments are not able to kill all tumor cells. Some of the tumor cells are resistant. With today’s instrumentations it is impossible to detect remaining tumor cells that are low in number. But they are there, maybe weakened by the therapy, dormant for months, or even years. To eliminate these tumor cells it is important to activate the immune cells, because through the inhibition, the immune cells don’t realize the danger and therefore are unable to attack the remaining tumor cells. The consequence is that the tumor can grow again. At this time, the tumor cells are resistant to the previous treatment.
However, what happens if you can reverse the inhibitory effect during the engulfment of the dying tumor cells? Instead of inhibiting the immune cells they will be activated to recognize and kill the remaining tumor cells.
Let’s have a closer look at figure (B).
(B) As prescribed for (A), the tumor grows until the doctor is able to recognize it. The following treatment will kill most of the tumor cells. However, this time the standard treatment will be combined with a specific antibody that recognizes dying cells. An antibody is a large Y-shaped protein produced by specific immune cells (“B cells”) that is used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses or in our case dying tumor cells. Besides neutralization, the complex of antibody and foreign object can also activate the immune system to find and eliminate the remaining invaders.
To come back to the research idea: The arriving macrophages (“big eaters”) will engulf the dying tumor cells - but this time, the dying tumor cells are labeled with the antibodies. Therefore, the “big eaters” recognize the tumor cells as dangerous and activate other immune cells. In turn, these activated immune cells can now recognize the remaining tumor cells and are able to kill them.
For people who are more familiar with cancer immunology research, I also plan to combine and evaluate the modified treatment with the so called checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoint inhibitors became recently very popular and resulted in 3 approved drugs for melanoma treatments in 2013 (ipilimumab) and 2014 (nivolumab and Pembrolizumab). Combining my research idea with these checkpoint inhibitors will lead to an even stronger immune response with the result that more cancer patients will survive.
Timeline & spending:
1-9 months: Creating different antibodies against the target (~15.000 EUR) and evaluating which antibody has the highest capacity of binding the target.
6-24 months: Testing the antibody in different experiments for efficiency of engulfing dying cells through macrophages and activation of immune cells (~35.000 EUR).
>24 months: Publishing the results in an open access scientific journal and applying for research grants to analyze the antibody in pre-clinical models
Final goal: Evaluating the efficiency of the antibody in cancer patients in clinical trials
Thank you for taking your time to read my proposal and please share to any family or friends who also might be interested!