• Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

“I breed cancer avatars for targeted treatments”, Giulia’s story

Byeditorial

May 31, 2021

Mini tumors to grow in the laboratory to find their Achilles heel. This is the bet of Giulia Della Chiara, born in 1981, graduated with honors in Biotechnology at the ‘Carlo Bo’ University of Urbino, who lived in Pesaro until her degree and then moved to Milan. “It is the Italian Mecca of scientific research, and, in the eyes of a young woman from the Marche region like me, it seemed like a departure for New York”, says the researcher at Adnkronos. Today he has been working at the Firc Institute of Molecular Oncology (Ifom) for more than a year, after an “epic move in the middle of the lockdown”. “I have always found excellent laboratories in our country, which had nothing to envy to those of the best foreign research institutes. With us, the apprenticeship is longer and, often, researchers with experience abroad are also rewarded with more points in the competition calls. I have had the opportunity several times to get a one-way ticket to the Big Apple, but I believe in Italy and I want to play at home. ” Giulia has always cultivated a passion for basketball, cats – she has two long-haired gray ones, Dorian and Lira – and, above all, for scientific research. Milan gave her the opportunity to enter the most important laboratories. At San Raffaele first, then at the European Institute of Oncology, to land at the laboratory, directed by Professor Massimiliano Pagani, first at the National Institute of Molecular Genetics (Ingm) and today at Ifom for an innovative project. “This is the study of the relationship between tumor and immune system with the use of 3D cell cultures, the so-called organoids which, starting from stem cells, derived from human tissue, are able, together with growth factors, to recreate in vitro mini human organs, “he explains. “Seeing small masses of tissue grow from single cells is a truly priceless emotion. It is like raising a litter of small tamagotchi and, if you take care of them, they allow you to investigate the more complex mechanisms underlying tumor growth. “. A work, conducted thanks to the financial support of the Airc Foundation for cancer research and published on the pages of the authoritative British scientific publication Nature Communications. “It is based on the generation of mini organs – he says – to study in particular colorectal cancer, whose incidence in the Western world is in second place for diffusion and mortality”. “We create these mini-tumors from samples of sick patients. We mince these fragments, put them in a sort of ‘blender’ and we make a pulp of cells to mix with a gel with all the ‘foods’ they need. At the moment we have about thirty small avatars of tumors, whose growth we monitor day after day, in the heat inside a kind of incubator, and in addition we have others frozen in our biobank in liquid nitrogen. inside the gel drops, the cells aggregate and acquire the appearance of the mini human organ from which they have been isolated “. “These miniatures, called ‘tumoroids’, are generated by different patients affected by the same type of tumor and used to study particular DNA sequences. My dream is to find new therapeutic targets – says the young researcher – to make therapies more effective and counteract the development of relapses “. (by Chiara Moretti)

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