RESEARCH TOPICS

The Centre pursues basic, clinical-translational and industrial research within multiple areas of cancer biology with the intent to promote our advancement in the understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that drive neoplastic transformation and progression, including cancer spreading and metastasis formation, such to contribute with novel tools for tumour prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Research activities of the Centre are concentrated on the following topics.

Cellular and molecular mechanisms of tumour cell intra- and extravasation and identification of anti-metastatic therapeutic targets

Entrance of disseminating tumour cells into haematic and lymphatic streams, and their site and organ-specific exit from these circuits, are pivotal steps in the metastatic cascade. Therefore, full understanding of these processes is fundamental for our comprehension of the regulation of metastasis formation and consequently for the potential to target these events therapeutically. We are utilizing a combination of in vitro-in vivo approaches entailing antibody-, morpholino- and siRNA-based targeting of putative key molecules responsible for the transvascular passage of cancer cells. To allow the identification of these factors and establish their significance we are relying upon the complementary use of…

Multifactorial diseases and drug response: a toxicogenetics/pharmacogenetics approach

The use of cell model-systems to study the interaction between xenobiotic and the cellular environment it’s a powerful tool in pre-clinical screening and in understanding the basis of negative clinical outcome of therapies. Knowledge on genetic determinants of disease pathogenesis and drug action, especially those of complex disease and drug response, is not always available. We worked on the characterization of the structure-activity relationship of newly synthesized drugs on different kind of biological models. Treatment strategies of several diseases have changed from unspecific to specific therapies thanks to the development of new therapies such as monoclonal antibodies (mAb) that target…

Antibody peptides as the next generation of anti-infective and anti-tumor agents

Life-threatening viral and microbial infections still represent relevant human illnesses worldwide and some are accompanied by unacceptably high mortality rates. Despite significant developments in anti-infective chemotherapy, many issues have increasingly narrowed the therapeutic options, making it imperative to discover new effective molecules. Among them, small peptides are arousing great interest. Our line of research aims at assessing the antibodies (Abs) as a source of peptides with anti-infective and anti-tumor activity. Starting from the study of the yeast killer phenomenon, we first produced Abs mimicking the wide-spectrum antimicrobial activity of a yeast killer toxin (“antibiobodies”) and synthetic peptides related to their…

Immunoprophylactic approaches against mycotoxicoses

This line of research aims at reducing the risks connected to mycotoxin contamination of foods and feeds through the development of vaccines to be used in public health interventions delivered at animal level. Mycotoxins are fungal secondary metabolites present worldwide in agricultural commodities that have been associated with severe toxic effects (mycotoxicoses) when ingested by vertebrates. Mycotoxins are produced by many important phytopathogenic and food spoilage fungi including Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium, and Alternaria species. Examples of some well-known mycotoxins are aflatoxins, fumonisins, ochratoxin, trichothecenes, zearalenone, and ergot alkaloids. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 25% of the world’s…

Targeted therapeutic approaches for glutamine-addicted and glutamine-synthetase-negative human cancers

Specific metabolic anomalies characterize human cancers. In particular, several tumors exhibit a peculiar requirement for the amino acid glutamine and must consume large amounts of the amino acid, which can be used for energetic purpose, biosynthetic pathways or enhanced resistance to metabolic or oxidative stress. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in human plasma and plays a number of important metabolic functions in normal human tissues. The exaggerate consumption of the amino by glutamine-addicted cancers may represent an Achilles’s heel for these tumors and provide a rationale for therapeutic approaches based on glutamine shortage. These approaches would be greatly…
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