Gene expression control in tumor biology
Prof.ssa Valeria Poli (Pricipal Investigator)
Controlled production of cytokines and growth factors, leading to the activation of specific signalling pathways and to the modulation of gene expression, is essential for life. However, aberrant cytokines/growth factors production or altered regulation of their signalling and/or of the activity of the downstream transcription factors are at the basis of many pathological conditions including chronic inflammation, auto-immunity and oncogenesis. The laboratory has long focused on the axis between the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 and the oncogenic transcription factor STAT3 at the crossroads between inflammation, auto-immunity and cancer, aiming at characterizing STAT3 involvement in both physiological and pathological conditions and making use of both in vitro approaches and in vivo genetically modified mouse model (GEMMs). In recent years we have demonstrated that constitutively active STAT3 can cooperate with oncogenes such as the HER2/Neu to confer aggressive features to breast tumors and support metastasis formation (Barbieri et al., 2010, Barbieri et al., 2010). Moreover, we have shown that aberrantly active STAT3 can regulate energy metabolism and mitochondrial activity and can act as a first hit in tumor transformation, shedding light on its well-known central role in inflammation-induced tumorigenesis (Demaria et al., 2010, Demaria et al, 2012).
Main ongoing research projects focus on different aspects of cancer biology, and in particular: