Hunting for tumor signs

Hunting for tumor signs

The one of Enrico Iaccino it is a real treasure hunt, even if the loot to be conquered certainly does not consist of coins or gold bars. The objective in this case is to find a signal that precisely indicates the presence of a specific tumor, large B-cell lymphoma. This indicator is exosomes, small vesicles that play a very important role in cell communication. To do this, Iaccino took on the role of the detective and, thanks to the funding received from the Gilead Science Fellowship Program, completed his special hunt and brought home the treasure. “When I approached the world of liquid biopsy I immediately thought I could try to trace the subpopulations of exosomes produced by tumor cells with this instrument. Thus I arrived at the validation of a protocol for the tracking, capture and molecular characterization of these vesicles. Thanks to the funding of the Fellowship Program, I then tried to understand if this same method was applicable in the context of other oncohematological pathologies, in particular in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma”, explains Iaccino, who works at the University of Catanzaro “Magna Græcia”.

Diagnosis and prognosis

In other tumors, the analysis of these vesicles has proven useful for monitoring the disease, with particular regard to the response to therapies. Hence the idea of ​​being able to apply it also to large B-cell lymphoma. “Through my “differential sorting” protocol between tumor and non-tumor exosomes, I went in search of not only quantitative but also molecular changes that occur in the vesicles and I was able to detect a molecular signature due to the presence or absence of the tumor, the severity of the disease and the response to the drug. That is to say, to take a snapshot of the microRNA profile in a particular stage of the tumor.”

The peculiarity of this methodology, which the researcher calls target-guided, is that it is not only valid for diagnosis, but can also potentially be exploited from a “theranostic” point of view: when a marker, a target of interest, is identified, it can be used both from the diagnosis point of view and from therapeutic point of view, by inserting a drug into the vesicles which acts directly on tumor cells. “All these advances made in the molecular profiling of some tumors, in the standardization of non-invasive protocols, will be the keystone of precision medicine of the future,” concludes the researcher.

The financing

Iaccino’s work was financed by the Fellowship Program with which every year, together with the Community Award, Gilead Science rewards projects by researchers and associations with the aim of supporting the activities of two key players for the protection and promotion of the country’s health , individual and collective, in particular in the context of chronic diseases. This year, for example, 62 projects were awarded for a total of 1.6 million euros in funding.

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