Laboratory of Genomics and Transcriptomics
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Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common malignant brain tumor in adults. The prognosis is extremely poor, with a median survival of only 15 months. For many years, GBM was thought to be unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, remaining restricted only to the central nervous system, a hypothesis also confirmed by the fact that extra-cranial metastases are extremely rare. In fact, it has been demonstrated that like all other tumors, GBM has the ability to disseminate in the circulatory stream.
Francesca Lessi is involved in the isolation and characterization of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from the blood of patients with GBM, through a cutting-edge method using instruments that allow to perform the Single Cell Analysis.
The CTCs possess biological characteristics typical of the tumor and may eventually metastasize to distant organs or relapse. CTCs represent an alternative to invasive biopsies as a means of detecting, characterizing and monitoring disease.
In recent years, it has been demonstrated that GBM-derived CTCs possess properties peculiar to cancer stem cells and contribute to local carcinogenesis and recurrence formation.
Furthermore, CTCs can circulate in the blood as single cells detached from the primary tumor but also as cell clusters, described as more aggressive. In particular, CTCs clusters have also been identified in the blood of patients with GBM.
Francesca Lessi’s studies are designed to define the genetic background of single and clusters of CTCs compared with the primary tumor and the recurrence to assess whether or not their presence in the peripheral circulation correlates with GBM migration and dissemination. The study of new molecular targets involved in tumor migration, could represent a significant improvement at the clinical level and lead to the development of more efficient personalized therapies.
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.