Epigenetic Events in Cancer

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1996 PhD Dept. Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Rome, Italy.
1996-2000 Postdoctoral work at the University of Marburg, Germany.
2000-2002 Senior Investigator at the European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.
2003 ICREA Research Professor and Group Leader at the Centre de Regulació Genòmica(CRG), Barcelona, Spain.


Understanding the genetic basis of cancers has been a topic of intense research, and hundreds of gene mutations have been identified that can cause carcinogenesis. However, in the past few years, increasing evidence has suggested that mutations are not the only genetic changes that lead to cancer. Indeed, perturbations of chromatin structure and of other epigenetic mechanisms can cause inappropriate gene expression and genomic instability, resulting in cellular transformation and malignant outgrowth.

Our research investigation is focused on understanding the role of several protein complexes that are involved in chromatin dynamics and metabolism, which when altered could participate in the establishment and maintenance of the aberrant silencing of tumor suppressor genes during transformation. Our results suggested that the Nucleosome Remodelling and Deacetylase complex (NuRD), Polycomb group of proteins (PcG) and the histone variant macroH2A are - with different timing and kinetics - involved in setting up an altered chromatin structure with aberrant gene silencing in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). We believe that the results of our research will lead to the identification of new biological tools with a potential impact on cancer therapeutic intervention.

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