Research projects

Visualising the earliest stages of cancer

Researcher
Dr Davide Mazza
Project period
April 2022 - April 2025
Country
Research Institute
Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele
Cancer types
General cancer research
Award amount
£206,893

Project aim

Dr Davide Mazza and his team aim to visualise some of the earliest molecular events in the formation of cancer, with the goal to identify new ways to prevent and treat cancer in the future.

Hope for the future

Cancer is set to become the world’s biggest killer by 2030 with an estimated 24.6 million people expected to die from cancer each year. But we can change this trajectory if we find new ways to not only treat, but also prevent cancer.

Dr Davide Mazza and his team are conducting in-depth studies into the very earliest stages of how cancer develops. They hope that their discoveries will open a whole new area of research and lay the foundation for the identification of new ways to prevent and treat cancer in the future.

 

Meet the scientist

Dr Davide Mazza is a father of two who enjoys listening to music, reading books, and playing guitar. Davide used to play in an alternative rock band, but now just plays with friends and family members who want to sing along.

The science

Senescence is a process cells go through where they move into a “hibernation” state. This acts as a protective mechanism and can help to stop healthy cells from becoming cancer cells. However, some cells can overcome this hibernation state, which can lead to the formation of cancer. The exact mechanisms that cells use to become senescent, or how they overcome it, are not well understood.

Dr Mazza and his team have developed a powerful new microscopy technique which they now want to use to investigate this problem, with the hope of uncovering ideas that will lead to new ways to treat and prevent cancer. The team will focus on visualising the changes that occur in how DNA in the cells is arranged as they become senescent, as well as exploring changes that occur as cells find a way to “wake up” from this hibernation state. They will also use their new technique to understand how senescent cells communicate with other nearby cells and reprogram them to also enter a hibernation state, in the hope of understanding more about the changes that occur when these cells “wake up”.

Some of my family members had to fight their personal battle with breast cancer. Being a witness of their strength, of their fears, and of their hope in the progress of research is inspiring, and at the same time instils a great sense of responsibility.
Dr Davide Mazza

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