Experimental oncology

B-Cell Neoplasia

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Head of Unit

Paolo Ghia

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Unit research activity is aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for the onset and progression of B cell lymphoproliferative disorders (leukemia and lymphomas), which represent most of the neoplasms of the immune system, accounting for 10% of all types of cancer. To this aim, the Unit intends to identify molecules and signal transduction pathways relevant to leukemic progression and that can potentially be used as diagnostic markers, prognostic factors or new potential therapeutic targets. To this end, research methodology is based on the integration of experimental results obtained, in vitro and in vivo, from the study of normal and neoplastic B lymphocytes.

This approach originates on the evidence that a better understanding of the physiological mechanisms of the immune system is essential to achieve a deeper understanding of the process of neoplastic transformation of B lymphocytes.

Research activity

In recent years, the unit has been particularly interested in the pathogenesis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), the most frequent adult leukemia in the Western world. Group research activity is focused on the fundamental role played by the microenvironment in the pathogenesis of the disease by studying the surrounding non-neoplastic cells and the molecular interactions occurring with the leukemic clone that are responsible for the survival and expansion of the leukemia. Particular attention is given by our laboratory to the definition of the role played by the antigen receptor (B Cell Receptor) and its interaction with foreign or self antigens.

Furthermore, the unit has described the existence of a pre- leukemic condition named Monoclonal B lymphocytosis (MBL) which is being studied by this group, from a genetic and molecular point of view, as a model of tumor progression.