MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowship enables the building of fusion-driven Sarcoma Models

Sarcomas, aggressive tumors that primarily affect children and adolescents, are the focus of a new project at St. Anna CCRI.  Despite advanced medicine, survival rates of patients with Sarcomas are low and treatment methods are outdated. Strengthened by a prestigious Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship, Ornella Urzì is now taking on this challenge with an innovative approach.

In cancer research, sarcomas represent a particularly challenging adversary. These tumors, originating from bone and soft tissue, disproportionately affect children and young adults. The battle against sarcomas is daunting—characterized by low survival rates and a therapeutic landscape that has remained stagnant for decades. Patients are often subjected to high doses of chemotherapy, a testament to the urgent need for breakthroughs in treatment approaches.

Fusion proteins contribute to tumor formation

At the heart of sarcoma’s nature is a molecular anomaly: oncogenic fusion proteins. These aberrant proteins emerge from the union of two genes, originally coding for different proteins. Once fused, these chimeric proteins disrupt cellular processes and contribute to tumor formation.

Building fusion-driven Sarcomas thanks to Marie Curie Fellowship

Through her Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship Ornella Urzì, a Postdoc in Eleni Tomazou’s Group, is now employing a “build-it-to-understand-it” strategy to model these fusion-driven sarcomas. Her approach is based on cutting-edge techniques, including stem cell engineering and CRISPR screening, designed to dissect the intricacies of these malignancies in a systematic and biologically interpretable manner.