Airc rewards Unipd in cancer research


AIRC support various cancer research projects which hold objectives ranging from basic research to clinical trials. Support includes funding scholarships as well as grants for scientists at different stages of their training and career. Currently, there are 29 researchers from the University of Padua who have been granted funding from AIRC.  Added to this list in 2019 are three researchers from the Department of Biology, Dr. Enrica Calura, Prof. Gaia Codolo, and Prof. Luigi Leanza, each awarded with a My First AIRC Grant. Their range of research includes the study of ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer, and the mechanism of tumour proliferation. With a maximum amount of 500,000 € distributed over a period of 5 years, these funds are intended to be given to young researchers under the age 40.

Ovarian cancer has one of the highest rates of mortality for women due to late diagnosis and the ability of these specific types of cancer cells to resist chemotherapy agents. Tumours are considered as a complex cell ecosystem within which malignant cells are able to interact with healthy cells by forcing them to support the growth, progression, and which eventually spread the tumour itself and inhibits current forms of effective therapies. The SHOwME Ovarian Cancer Project, valued at 499,000 €, will allow Dr. Enrica Calura to study different cell types that make up ovarian cancer. Using the latest technologies, Dr. Calura will study the sequence of RNA molecules contained in individual cells. This data will then be used to identify these cells and to study the molecular signals between tumour and organism both before and after the administration of therapies. The goal is to improve our knowledge of the disease and the development of resistance to chemotherapy.

A macrophage is a large white blood cell which is critically important to our immune system by activating T lymphocytes which then kills cancer cells. Macrophages infiltrate tumours to fight it and prevent its growth and bringing about changes, due to the tumour microenvironment, "transforming" them into cells that favour the growth of the tumour itself. In fact, in many types of cancer, including colorectal cancer, a high tumour infiltrate of macrophages is an index of negative prognosis. The My First AIRC Grant for Prof. Gaia Codolo, valued at 495,000 € over the next 5 years, will be used to study the mechanisms and molecules that shut down the ability of macrophages to combat the growth of cancer cells of colon and rectum. Some of these molecules act as immune checkpoints and may be the target for the development of new therapies.

Many functions inside cells are regulated by a sequence of chained chemical reactions called signal pathways. One of these pathways is mediated by a molecule called Wnt.  The Wnt molecule is important because it is involved in the regulation of cell proliferation and is quite often overly active in cancer cells, thus multiplying out of control. Recently, the group of Prof. Leanza has shown that this pathway can be reduced by modulating cellular metabolism. The My First AIRC Grant for Prof. Leanza, valued at 494,000 € over the next 5 years, will allow Prof. Leanza to study how diet can affect cellular metabolism and, in particular, the functionality of mitochondria, known as ‘the powerhouses of cell.’ The goal is to try to reduce the proliferation of tumours and the number of metastases by making the cancer more vulnerable towards the drugs currently used in chemotherapy.

University of Padua researches funded by AIRC include: Pierfranco Conte, Matteo Fassan, Stefano Piccolo, Rosario Rizzuto, Elena Mariotto, Arianna Loregian, Marco Agostini, Francesco Argenton, Stefania Bortoluzzi, Massimo Santoro, Gianfranco Pasut, Ildikò Szabò, Martina Pigazzi, Andrea Rasola, Antonio Rosato, Sirio Dupont, Luca Azzolin, Chiara Romualdi, Sara Richter, Gyorgy Szabadkai, Erich Piovan, Giampietro Viola, Paolo Bernardi, Gaia Codolo, Marco Sandri, Luigi Leanza, Enrica Calura, and Silvio Tosatto. 

Research needs everyone's support, and as such you too can support AIRC on Saturday, January 25, 2020, through “Le Arance della salute (Healthy Oranges)” initiative.  The farmers markets found throughout Italy, including those in Padua, will offer 2.5 kg of AIRC Sicilian Oranges for 10 €, helping you to stay healthy while supporting cancer research.