Dr Nicola Valeri, Gastrointestinal Cancer Biology and Genomics team
Our Lab aims to discover novel biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets in gastrointestinal malignancies with a special focus on colorectal and gastro-oesophageal cancers.
One of the main areas we are investigating is focused on the diagnostic and therapeutic applications of microRNAs. MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs controlling cell homeostasis. MicroRNA deregulation is common to most solid and haematological malignancies and is a driving force in cancer progression. In view of their stability, microRNAs can be easily detected in tissues and serum from cancer patients and their deregulation can be harnessed for cancer diagnosis and therapy. In collaboration with Prof David Cunningham at the Royal Marsden Hospital we are currently trying to define signatures of circulating microRNAs associated with response to chemotherapy and novel biological agents in colorectal and upper-GI cancer patients.
The second goal of the Lab is to use large scale RNAi screenings to define novel target of therapies according to tumour molecular profile. Using tumour spheroids derived from genetically engineered mouse models and human colorectal cancers, we try to define novel pathways associated with KRAS, PI3K and P53 mutations that may be used for drug development. Part of this project aims at understanding how driver mutations commonly observed in human gastrointestinal cancers affect microRNA deregulation and function defining the cross-talk between the coding and non-coding genome.