Gastrointestinal and Liver Oncology

The Gastrointestinal (GI) and Liver Oncology group is devoted to conduct both clinical-epidemiologic and basic/translational research on preneoplastic conditions and on cancers of the upper GI tract and of the liver.
As far as basic science and translational research is considered, this group is specifically interested on molecular mechanisms underlying carcinogenesis in the liver and in upper GI tract. Among these mechanisms, research projects are mainly focused on inflammation, angiogenesis, apoptosis, immune response and production of reactive oxygen species, which interact in the oncologic network and contribute to the development of the neoplastic disease. Moreover, microRNAs as important gene expression regulators that might be involved in cancer development and progression, are also investigated. These mechanisms are evaluated starting from pre-neoplastic lesions and conditions, such as cirrhosis (in liver carcinogenesis) and atrophic gastritis and Barrett’s esophagus (in gastric and esophageal tumors).
In addition, liver oncology research projects are also aimed at identifying circulating biomarkers such as circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) and microRNA (“liquid biopsy”) useful for early diagnosis, prognostic stratification of the patients and prediction of the response to treatment, focusing in particular on systemic therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
With respect to precancerous conditions and lesions of the upper GI tract, esophageal (Barrett's esophagus) and gastric (H. pylori related gastritis and autoimmune gastritis) predisposing conditions and their pre-neoplastic role will be investigated from a clinical point of view. In addition, translational studies will be conducted on the mechanisms of gastric carcinogenesis (investigating autophagy associated with oxidative stress; the changes in the expression of onco-miRNAs and onco-suppressor miRNAs), on the mechanisms of inflammation (cytokines), and on "liquid biopsy" in an attempt to identify new markers useful in predicting cancer development.

The Oncology group is also involved in international trials on HCC therapy and collaborates with the multicenter group ITA.LI.CA (Italian Liver Cancer) in the production of scientific evidence on the epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment of HCC. In particular, research projects are aimed at evaluating changes in epidemiology, defining the best surveillance strategies in cirrhotic patients at risk, defining new prognostic systems and evaluating changes in the treatment scenario for HCC.


  • Farinati F, Vitale A, Spolverato G, Pawlik TM, Huo TL, Lee YH, Frigo AC, Giacomin A, Giannini EG, Ciccarese F, Piscaglia F, Rapaccini GL, Di Marco M, Caturelli E, Zoli M, Borzio F, Cabibbo G, Felder M, Sacco R, Morisco F, Biasini E, Foschi FG, Gasbarrini A, Svegliati Baroni G, Virdone R, Masotto A, Trevisani F, Cillo U; ITA.LI.CA study group. Development and Validation of a New Prognostic System for Patients with Hepatocellular Carcinoma. PLoS Med. 2016 Apr 26;13(4):e1002006. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002006. eCollection 2016 Apr.
  • Pelizzaro F, Penzo B, Peserico G, Imondi A, Sartori A, Vitale A, Cillo U, Giannini EG, Forgione A, Ludovico Rapaccini G, Di Marco M, Caturelli E, Zoli M, Sacco R, Cabibbo G, Marra F, Mega A, Morisco F, Gasbarrini A, Svegliati-Baroni G, Giuseppe Foschi F, Olivani A, Masotto A, Nardone G, Raimondo G, Azzaroli F, Vidili G, Oliveri F, Trevisani F, Farinati F; Italian Liver Cancer (ITA.LI.CA) group. Monofocal hepatocellular carcinoma: How much does size matter? Liver Int. 2021 Feb;41(2):396-407. doi: 10.1111/liv.14718. Epub 2020 Nov 23. PMID: 33155401.
  • Pelizzaro F, Cardin R, Sartori A, Imondi A, Penzo B, Aliberti C, Ponzoni A, Vitale A, Cillo U, Farinati F. Circulating MicroRNA-21 and MicroRNA-122 as Prognostic Biomarkers in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Patients Treated with Transarterial Chemoembolization. Biomedicines. 2021 Jul 25;9(8):890. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9080890. PMID: 34440094; PMCID: PMC8389644.
  • Pelizzaro F, Peserico G, D'Elia M, Cazzagon N, Russo FP, Vitale A, Giannini EG, Piccinnu M, Rapaccini GL, Di Marco M, Caturelli E, Zoli M, Sacco R, Cabibbo G, Marra F, Mega A, Morisco F, Gasbarrini A, Svegliati-Baroni G, Foschi FG, Olivani A, Masotto A, Nardone G, Raimondo G, Azzaroli F, Vidili G, Oliveri F, Trevisani F, Farinati F; Italian Liver Cancer (ITA.LI.CA) Study Group. Surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma with a 3-months interval in "extremely high-risk" patients does not further improve survival. Dig Liver Dis. 2022 Jul;54(7):927-936. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2021.08.025. Epub 2021 Sep 25. PMID: 34580038.
  • Pelizzaro F, Kitenge MP, Cardin R, Ponzoni A, Cillo U, Vitale A, Businello G, Munari G, Fassan M, Farinati F. Circulating prostaglandin E2: a novel potential prognostic biomarker in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. Clin Exp Med. 2021 Nov;21(4):675-682. doi: 10.1007/s10238-021-00705-z. Epub 2021 Mar 25. PMID: 33768340.
  • Pelizzaro F, Cardin R, Penzo B, Pinto E, Vitale A, Cillo U, Russo FP, Farinati F. Liquid Biopsy in Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Where Are We Now? Cancers (Basel). 2021 May 10;13(9):2274. doi: 10.3390/cancers13092274. PMID: 34068786; PMCID: PMC8126224.
  • Russo FP, Zanetto A, Pinto E, Battistella S, Penzo B, Burra P, Farinati F. Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Chronic Viral Hepatitis: Where Do We Stand? Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jan 2;23(1):500. doi: 10.3390/ijms23010500. PMID: 35008926; PMCID: PMC8745141.
  • Zingone F, Pilotto V, Cardin R, Maddalo G, Orlando C, Fassan M, Marsilio I, Collesei E, Pelizzaro F, Farinati F. Autoimmune Atrophic Gastritis: The Role of miRNA in Relation to Helicobacter Pylori Infection. Front Immunol. 2022 Jul 22;13:930989. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.930989. PMID: 35941891; PMCID: PMC9356369.

Funding (as PI)

1. Gilead fellowship program 2013 " vascular abnormalities and hepatic fibrosis in viral hepatitis " PI:  Prof. Maria Guido and Prof. Fabio Farinati
2. AIFA 2017 grant for a prospective randomized trial of Capecitabine in HCC
3. The Exelixis XL 184-309 trial
4.  BRISK brivanib study in the adjuvant setting and in second line.
5. SID Project The “Padova signature” for the early detection of Hepatocellular Carcinoma

People involved

Fabio Farinati, Full Professor
Filippo Pelizzaro, Assistant Professor
Patrizia Burra, full Professor
Francesco Paolo Russo, Associate Professor
Alberto Zanetto, Assistant Professor

Group members

Martina Gambato (Consultant Hepatologist), Elisa Pinto, Giorgio Palano, Maria Piera Kitenge, Federica Bertellini (Gastroetnerology Fellows); Romilda Cardin (PhD Biologist)