Today’s main challenge in cancer research is represented by the remarkable biological and molecular tumor heterogeneity across and within patients, which shapes all key features of tumorigenesis and treatment response. Tumor heterogeneity is the basis of the main clinical problems in oncology, which are metastases and drug resistance.
Cancer genomic information, albeit essential, is NOT sufficient to explain all aspects of tumor heterogeneity, and hence insufficient, on the clinical level, to predict response/resistance to existing therapies, and, on the research level, to prioritize new molecular targets or stratification markers and repurposed drugs.
Our research activities span several different aspects of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying tumorigenesis, tumor maintenance and response/resistance to anti-cancer treatments. A common theme of our research activities is the study of adaptive responses (plasticity) of tumor cells to environmental signals and treatments, focusing on: i) Cellular mechanisms of adaptation, including stem-cell reprogramming, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, proliferative-invasive switch, interaction with inflammatory/immune cells; ii) Molecular mechanisms of adaptation, namely transcriptional, translational and metabolic reprogramming, and epigenomic mechanisms of reprogramming; iii)Biological and molecular intra-tumor heterogeneity, by means of analyses at single-cell, single cell-clone and single-molecule levels, with emphasis on Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs), quiescent tumor cells and interaction of adaptive/genetic mechanisms.
We consider innovation and partnership a driver of our research, and therefore we have established a Technology Transfer Office, IEO-TT (Innovation and Excellence in Oncology - Tech Transfer) working side by side with our scientists and clinicians. IEO-TT has the mission of promoting the transformation of knowledge generated from the research activities into products for patient health through protection and exploitation of the intellectual property, entrepreneurship initiatives and strategic collaborations with both academia and industry.