The new year began with the announcement of the names of the winners of the Fellowship 2022 by the Umberto Veronesi Foundation. We are very proud to announce that three of our researchers have won the coveted scholarship to support their research activities for the next 12 months.

Alice Cani, postdoc of the advanced diagnostics and target discovery laboratory in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), winner for the second year in the row of the Veronesi scholarship, will continue her study on “The role of exosomes in pediatric B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia”. “I’m Alice Cani and I am a researcher in the pediatric hematology, oncology and hematopoietic cell and gene therapy area directed by Prof Alessandra Biffi. The aim of my project is to study the role of exosomes, small vesicles released by the cells and containing various types of molecules, in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and their impact on the communication between the tumoral cells and the surrounding micro-environment, favouring the progression and the relapse of the disease. During my previous project, we characterised the information contained inside the exosomes extracted from the plasma of pediatric patients with B-ALL. Thanks to this scholarship, this year I will be able to dedicate myself to a more in-depth analysis of the data collected, in order to identify and understand new potential mechanisms that cause the aggressiveness of the pathology and its pharmacological resistance”.      

Pina Fusco of the NBTECH laboratory will work on a project called ‘Exploring the role of extracellular vesicles in mitochondrial metabolic reprogramming of hypoxic neuroblastoma microenvironment’. “My name is Pina Fusco and I am a researcher at the NBTECH laboratory directed by Prof Elisa Cimetta. For the last two years my research has focused on studying extracellular vesicles (EV) and their role in the progression and spread of the neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric tumour which is difficult to treat. The aim of this project is study the role of the EVs in mitochondrial metabolic reprogramming, which is the mechanism through which the tumoral cells adapt to the increasing energy requirements that facilitate the various states of the growth of the tumour, as well as the resistance to the therapy and the formation of the metastasis”.   

Elena Poli, postdoc of the advanced diagnostics and target discovery in rare pediatric solid tumours laboratory, has won this scholarship for the second year in the row, for a project called the ‘Assessment of fibroblast growth factor 8 (FGF8) as immunotherapeutic target in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma patients and isolation of neutralizing human-derived anti-FGF8 autoantibodies’. “I’m Elena Poli and I work at the advanced diagnostics and target discovery in rare pediatric solid tumours laboratory directed by Prof Gianni Bisogno. My project aims to develop new immunotherapy approaches to treat children affected by pediatric sarcomas, an heterogeneous group of highly aggressive tumours that represent about 11% of pediatric neoplasia. During my career I have studied and characterised the antibodies produced by the organism to eliminate the tumour in children affected by sarcoma, so that they can be used for therapeutic use. With this project I therefore intend to study in detail the antibodies present in patients who have recovered from the tumour in complete remission, in order to reproduce them, and lay the foundations for their therapeutic use, especially if the disease reappears or for patients who don’t respond to the therapy”.

Moreover, Dr Elena Mariotto’s research project of the experimental pharmacology laboratory has won two year’s funding within the prestigious Supporting Talent in ReSearch@University of Padua grant program (STARS @UNIPD2021). “I’m Elena Mariotto, researcher at the experimental pharmacology group directed by Prof Giampietro Viola within the Pediatric Oncohematology Unit. My studies examine the resistance mechanisms to chemotherapy in the medulloblastoma, a pediatric tumour of the brain and that unfortunately often does not respond to traditional therapy, giving way to relapses. Starting from the cells taken from the patient’s tumour, I create small models of cerebral tumours called organoids. Thanks to these ‘mini-tumours’ I will test more than 3500 medicines with an automated system in order to identify possible therapies to defeat pediatric cerebral tumours and prevent relapse, in order to achieve an increasingly tailored and customised therapy for each patient”. 

Our heartfelt congratulations for this brilliant result to our researchers. We hope that this goal is just the first of a long line of appreciations of your talent and dedication!