Research Lines

Research lines

Application of bioinformatics to the study of tumors
The emerging so-called 'high-throughput' technologies are revolutionizing research in both basic and clinical oncology. The holistic approach adopted by these new technologies allows the construction of tumor-specific gene expression profiles and provides insight into the processes governing oncogenic transformation. However, the huge datasets generated by high-throughput methods are useless unless supported by tools that allow extraction of relevant features, a process that relies on sophisticated computational analyses.
The school offers specific training and research opportunities that respond to the current need to train specialists able to tackle the vast array of high-throughput projects in oncology at the research and industrial levels, and which require the ability to solve complex, interdisciplinary problems and an appreciation of the impact of these methodologies on biomedicine and treatment of cancer patients.

Cyto-histopathology and molecular pathology in oncology
Ph.D. students who choose to study the histopathology of tumors will gain expertise in clinical-diagnostic research in the context of surgical pathology. Clinical activities expose the student to a very broad range of clinical material, from the common everyday surgical specimens to rare and unusual diseases and neoplasias.
Student gain hands-on experience in all aspects of laboratory work, from conceptualization in basic research to practical application to clinical activity. Emphasis is placed upon understanding the basic science and associated biotechnology of pathology and on mastering modern technologies. Services that support the teaching activities include histology, immunohistochemistry, molecular diagnostics, and operational informatics.

Tumor immunology and immunotherapy approaches
Tumor immunology is currently undergoing a new flare of development, thanks to the understanding that a combination of different strategies synergizing against all (or most) of the different actors contributing to tumor growth could be a very effective, if not the ultimate, remedy.
Laboratories in the School have a strong tradition in tumor immunology and offer opportunities for front-line research into the mechanisms that allow tumors to escape immune surveillance and innovative approaches to interfere with these mechanisms.

Molecular markers that predict therapeutic response in patients with solid tumors
Students have the opportunity to carry out research on solid tumors in the University's II Surgical Clinic, which includes groups with national and international standing in clinical and experimental research on breast cancer, colon-rectal cancer, soft tissue cancers, and gastric cancer.
The study program encompasses many thematic areas with the purpose of supporting or explaining epidemiologic aspects of solid tumors and the correlation between genetic, molecular, and cellular factors and cancer progression.
There are currently several studies on new screening approaches and identification of tissue and plasma markers that will permit early diagnosis and improved monitoring of tumor progression/transformation. The laboratories are also evaluating new protocols for both multimodal treatment with conservative intent and for adjuvant therapy, and are searching for genetic alterations and genetic tumor profiles as predictive markers of tumor response to treatment and/or as prognostic factors.

Hematological tumors
Doctoral research is aimed at scrutinizing the biological and molecular mechanisms involved in the development and growth of malignant cells in different hematological malignancies, including B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia, hairy cell leukemia, multiple myeloma, and T- and Natural Killer cell leukemias. Emphasis is placed on understanding the involvement of specific signal transduction pathways and the related protein kinases, with the ultimate goal of identifying new druggable targets and pharmacological tools for innovative therapeutic approaches for treating hematologic diseases.
The training of PhD students will deliver researchers endowed with multidisciplinary expertise in a variety of activities ranging from molecular sciences to the clinical treatment of hematological malignancies.

Genetic predisposition to cancer
Although clustering of tumors within families long ago suggested that tumor development may have a genetic, transmissible origin, it was only recently ascertained that a fraction of all tumors (about 5-10%) arise due to gene alterations that segregate in families with Mendelian inheritance.
Laboratories in the Ph.D. program have extensive experience investigating the involvement of alterations in two genes (BRCA 1 and 2) in the pathogenesis of breast cancer, with over 300 families screened for predisposing mutations in these genes. More recently, the study of genetic, inheritable cancers has been extended to other tumor histotypes, including hereditary colon-rectal cancer and Lynch syndrome, familial melanoma, and endocrine cancer.

Viral oncology
An estimated 15-20% of all human tumors are traceable to an infectious agent (primarily viruses). An immunocompromised status, due either to infection or iatrogenic immunosuppression in transplant recipients, poses a particular risk for the development of virus-associated tumors. Analysis of the mechanisms by which viruses rearrange the cellular program of senescence/immortalization is shedding new light into cell physiopathology and has already provided valuable new tools for prevention and treatment strategies.  Students in the doctoral program have the opportunity to work in laboratories with expertise in the study of RNA and DNA tumor viruses, in particular human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8 or Kaposi Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus, KSHV), and human papillomavirus (HPV).