Thursday, May 24 2018

Cancer is a disease of great complexity of which we still have much to learn. This creates important opportunities in the development of new diagnostic tools, treatments and prevention methods. It is now established that cancer is not a singular disease, but rather a collection of related pathologies, each with its own genetic foundation. The growth of a tumor from a single genetically-altered cell is a gradual process of evolution, in which the cells and molecules comprising the tumor microenvironment interact and engage in highly regulated reciprocal dialogues favoring malignancy. The growth of each tumor cell is thus determined by its genetic makeup as well as its fitness for its microenvironment. This evolutionary nature of a tumor is characterized by substantial inter- and intra-tumoral heterogeneity reflected by tumor subpopulations, that although identical under microscopic observation, can have dramatically different clinical phenotypes (survival, response to treatment).

Biomolecular technologies (genome, proteome, metabolome, glycome) are opening the way to exciting biomedical research developments, that have the potential to usher in an era of precision medicine, in which molecular assays enable treatment to be tailored to the individual patient. This requires assays able to capture the molecular changes that define a patient response, even if they originate from subpopulations of the tumor. The discovery of new therapeutic targets and personalized therapies, thus requires the identification of the diverse tumor subpopulations, their comprehensive molecular characterization and the determination of specific markers that can be detected with minimally invasive tests.

We believe that at the base of the successful development of a tumor in an organism, there is the establishment of a new communication mechanism between the various cellular components that make up the tumor itself. Our scientific vision, therefore is based in the understanding and translation of the new cellular language established by the tumor in order to interrupt this communication and stop cancer invasion.

To achieve these goals the FPS scientists developed novel methods combining modern omics technologies with carefully defined patient data and samples. The scientific approach set up by the FPS research team aims to identify and understand the inter- and intra-tumor heterogeneity and then to comprehend how tumor cells communicate with other cells in their micro-environment. Finally, the isolation and characterization of circulating tumor cells and vesicles that track the molecular changes in tumor subpopulations will be pivotal to get insights on the communications systems used by the tumors with the aim to interrupt these channels.