Congratulations to Diana Passaro, winner of an ERC starting grant for her project PLASTECITY

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The European Research Council (ERC) published the results of its Starting Grant call for projects, on September 5, 2023, following a very competitive selection process (15% success). Diana Passaro, head of the “Leukemia and niche dynamics” team, is among the winners for her project PLASTECITY (PLASTicity of Endothelial Cell as new Target for acute myeloId leukemia TherapY).

ERC starting grants support scientists at the start of their careers who have already carried out excellent supervised work, and are ready to lead teams and develop promising research projects.

The PLASTECITY project aims to acquire a global understanding of the role of vascular cells in acute leukemia and to identify new therapeutic targets for the treatment of this cancer, the most common in children.

Currently available treatments cause significant side effects and patients have a high rate of relapse. Therefore, there is an urgent need to seek more targeted and less toxic therapies. PLASTECITY allows us to explore how the development of disease affects healthy cells in the microenvironment, particularly vascular cells which have a crucial role in the bone marrow. The PLASTECITY project is based on the hypothesis that, in the case of acute leukemia, certain vascular cells regress towards a less differentiated and more plastic state, all of which favors the progression of the disease. To test this hypothesis, mouse models will be used, and advanced microscopy and sequencing techniques will be employed to describe the plasticity of vascular cells. By identifying the molecular factors involved in this process, the study aims to find new therapeutic targets to prevent the formation of an environment favorable to leukemia in the bone marrow. These targets will then be tested using humanized on-chip models developed in the team. The results will contribute to preclinical validation and bring us closer to the development of more effective treatments in patients.


Diana Passaro

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