Epigenetics and intratumour functional heterogeneity
Dr Paola Scaffidi (The Crick Institute)
C42, Biomedical Sciences Building
School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine seminar.
The goal of Paola's laboratory is to uncover fundamental principles of cancer development, with particular emphasis on epigenetic mechanisms regulating cancer stem cell (CSC) function and tumour organisation. Cancer is a clonal disease originating from a single cell. Yet, most human cancers are characterised by astounding intra-tumour heterogeneity and comprise various subpopulations of cells with distinct phenotypes and biological properties. Even neighbouring cells within a tumour may have different morphologies, express differential transcriptional programs and display specific repertoires of surface molecules. Most importantly, not all cancer cells possess the same proliferative potential and in most cancers only a subset of cells is truly immortal. These cells act as CSCs and are responsible for maintaining the long-term growth of the tumour.
The group is interested in understanding how epigenetic mechanisms involving histone modifications, higher-order chromatin structure and DNA methylation contribute to intra-tumour heterogeneity and how they affect CSC function. They use genome-wide mapping approaches and state-of-the-art cell biological methods in combination with advanced light microscopy techniques and in vivo approaches to characterise functionally important epigenetic traits of CSCs, with the ultimate goal of identifying novel therapeutic targets.
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