The scientific field of interest of Mariangela Morelli has always been Oncology. After graduation in Biological Sciences from University of Pisa, she obtained a PhD in Molecular and Experimental Oncology at the same University, dealing with the study of molecular markers in pancreatic cancer. She arrived at Fondazione Pisana per la Scienza, thanks to a scholarship from the National Order of Biologists for the study of glioblastoma (GB), the most common malignant brain tumor in adults, whose prognosis is extremely poor, with an average survival of only 12-15 months after diagnosis. Despite the large amount of molecular information collected to date on GB, there are no therapeutic targets validated by clinical studies and for this reason, for several years now, surgical resection, chemotherapy with temozolomide and radiotherapy have remained the best treatment options. Considering the rapid course of this disease, there is a dramatic need to find therapeutic approaches that are not only personalized, but also able to predict the efficacy of pharmacological treatment in an extremely rapid time.
For this reason Mariangela Morelli is involved, in one of the FPS grant 2018 entitled “Optical metabolic imaging of glioblastoma patient derived organoids to assess treatment response and disease progression”, in setting up viable cultures of GB explants, the 3D model that is closest to the “real” tumor environment, to study drug response, through the use of metabolic imaging techniques, acquiring experience in the FLIM (Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging) method.
Recently, Mariangela Morelli has become one of the scientist involved in the TOSCANO three year project (The Omics SCiences AgaiNst Osteosarcoma), funded by the Tuscany Region that deals with osteosarcoma (OS), the most common bone cancer in children and young adults. Despite current therapies, the prognosis remains poor and patients often develop relapses and metastases. The hope for OS patients today lies in the development of new and more effective precision therapies as a result of the molecular characterization of this bone tumor. In this project, based on molecular and cellular studies on OS, Mariangela Morelli will participate in identifying the biological mechanisms that could be at the basis of pathogenesis and resistance to therapies in OS.