Laboratory of Genomics and Transcriptomics
Despite the fact that breast carcinoma represents the most frequent cancer in women and that it has been largely studied worldwide for many decades, its etiology is largely unknown. The hereditary transmission of pathogenetic mutations of some predisposing genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, is the only factor recognized as causative in this disease.
For what concerns the sporadic breast tumors, Francesca Lessi is involved in a project focused on the demonstration that MMTV, the Mouse Mammary Tumor Virus, able to induce cancer in the murine mammary gland, is also a human virus and able to trigger cancer in woman’s breast. Recently, she contributed to demonstrate that MMTV is present in human salivary glands and saliva, that could represent the route of its inter-human transmission.
Once a cancer has been initiated, there are many different molecular pathways, started by the etiological agent, that drive the process of invasion and then of metastasis. The molecular mechanisms underlying the first steps of the invasive behavior of breast carcinoma are crucial. Then, the relationships between tumor epithelial cells and stroma are very important in determining the progression of the disease. To understand all these aspects in details, Francesca Lessi adopts a laser assisted microdissection approach, that allows to extract nucleic acids from very few cells, carefully separating epithelial cells and stromal cells to analyze gene alterations in the epithelium and in neoplastic microenvironment.
Francesca Lessi is also presently carrying on a project aimed to investigate, by cell functional studies, modifiers of hereditary cancer risk in gene expression profile alterations in normal mammary tissues of BRAC1/2 carriers integrating therefore the germline DNA mutational screening approach.
Francesca Lessi received her Master’s degree in Biological Science and her PhD in Experimental and Molecular Oncology at the University of Pisa, Italy. She spent several months at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (Oxford, UK) where she deepen her knowledge in molecular biology. In 2015, she obtained the Specialization in Clinical Pathology from Medical School of the University of Pisa.