Epigenetics & Genetics Program

For several years our research group has focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying epigenetic and genetic alteration in human cells leading to cancer formation and progression. Our specific research has concentrated on the mechanisms regulated by pRb-family proteins and governing the neoplastic processes. Our interest is to carry out the complex network of signals by which this family of proteins regulates cellular proliferation, survival and differentiation, and to disclose the mechanisms responsible for the regulatory disruption of these functions in the neoplastic process. In this context, we have suggested that the silencing of estrogen receptor alpha (ER-α) gene during breast cancer progression, as well as of p73 gene in osteosarcoma, could arise from epigenetic events mediated by pRb2/130 (and perhaps by pRb1/105 and p107) in association with specific enzymes involved in the chromatin remodeling. Furthermore, our work has shown that epigenetic mechanisms controlled by pRb2/p130, as well as epigenetic events affecting Rb2/130 gene expression itself, play an important role in retinoblastoma and lung cancer formation and progression, and can represent key events in the differentiation of cornea and conjunctiva normal cells.

Specific Research Projects:

  • pRb family proteins (in particular pRb2/p130) and regulation of estrogen receptors (alpha and beta) gene expression by chromatin remodeling in breast cancer.
  • Development of new protocols for cancer treatment by induction of estrogen receptors expression (estrogen receptor alpha and beta) through the design of new anticancer molecules.
  • Development of new protocols for the identification of subgroups of patients at a higher risk of relapse and death who would benefit from particular therapeutic choices, more aggressive treatment forms, and more specific follow-up modulations.
  • Role of pRb family proteins in lung cancer formation and progression. Specifically we are looking at: Genetic and epigenetic (Rb family gene methylation ) alterations in lung cancer.
  • Development of new strategies for lung cancer treatment through gene therapy approaches and design of new anticancer molecules.