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Research Interests

Epigenetic & cancer. An increasing number of genetic aberrations, such as chromosomal translocations that alter the function of transcription regulatory factors, has been identified as the cause of Acute Myeloid Leukemias and shown to act by deregulating gene programming at both the genetic and epigenetic level. While the genetic aberrations occurring in acute myeloid leukemia are fairly well understood, we have only recently become aware of the epigenetic deregulation associated with leukemia, in particular with myeloid leukemias. The deposition of epigenetic “marks” on chromatin – post-translational modifications of nucleosomal proteins and methylation of particular DNA sequences - is accomplished by enzymes, which are often embedded in multi-subunit “machineries” that have acquired aberrant functionalities during leukemogenesis. These enzymes are targets for so-called “epi-drugs”. Indeed, recent results indicate that epi-drugs may constitute an entirely novel type of anti-cancer drugs with unanticipated potential. Proof-of-principle comes from studies with histone deacetylase inhibitors, promising novel anti-cancer drugs. In this field my laboratory focuses on the epigenetic mechanisms associated with acute myeloid leukemogenesis and investigated the therapeutic potential of epigenetic modulators such as histone deacetylase and DNA methyltransferase inhibitors in leukaemia systems (Nebbioso A. et al., Nat Med 2005; Insinga A. et al., Nat Med 2005).

Short CV

Career history
1992. Degree in Medicine and Surgery cum Laude.
1992. Habilitation to practice in medicine.
1996. Specialisation in medical Oncology cum laude.
1999. Appointed Assistant Professor at the Second University of Naples.
2002. PhD defense in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathology. Coordinator Prof. Stelio Varrone.
2006. appointed Associate Professor at the Second University of Naples.

Awards and honours
Fellowship award of the Rotary International; Fellowship award of the F.R.M. (French foundation for medical studies) Fellowship award of the A.R.C. (French association against cancer) EMBO short-term fellowship”, ‘Poste verte’ (INSERM, France);
2002. Winner of the 1st Price “ONLUS-AICC 2002” for young investigators in the applied Oncology.
2005. Winner of the Price in cancer research from the Foundation ‘Guido Berlucchi’, Brescia, IT.
2005. Winner of the International Price ‘de Luca’ for MDs in Cancer research. Price was from the prestigious ‘Accademia dei Lincei’in Rome, IT. Price was given by the President of the Italian Republic
2010. Winner of the Presidential gold medal in Epigenetics given by the President of the Italian Republic.
2010. Winner of the Start-Cup Campania (10 11 2010)

Research Interests
Translational research to bio-medical discoveries.
Focus: mechanisms of epigenetic deregulations in cancer; identification and characterisation of novel epigenetic modulators
Aims: innovative targeted treatments of cancer and bio-markers discovery in epigenetics
Scientific societies
AIOM (Associazione Italiana di Oncologia Medica).
AICC (Associazione Italiana per le Colture Cellulari).
SIP (Società Italiana di Patologia).

Editorial boards
Editor of the International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, IF 4.89
Editorial board of the journal Clinical Epigenetics.
Editorial board of American J. Of Cancer Research
Active Research Grants
• VI European Framework program Integrated Project Epigenetic Treatment Of Neoplastic disease, five years grant. Current status: Contract will end 31st March 2011.
• 7th Frame program EU collaborative project ‘Apo-sys’ (duration 4 years) on the role of apoptotic factors in human disease and points of intervention. Grant will In January 2012.
• 7th Frame program EU collaborative project ‘Cancer-Dip’ (duration 3 years) on the role of DNA methylation in Cancer. Grant will end in December 31st 2010.
• AIRC Associazione Italiana per la ricerca contro il cancro (3 years grant), young investigator grant. Grant will expire in April 2011.
• 7th Frame program EU project ATLAS (duration 3 years). Contract will end in March 2012.

WO2008125988A1. Novel derivatives of psammaplin A, a method for their synthesis and their use for the prevention or treatment of cancer

Additional professional activities:
1. Referee for many international journals such as Nature Medicine, Cancer Cell, PNAS, Cancer research, EMBO journal, etc
2. Referee of international agencies for funding such as INTAS, Dutch cancer society, EU, ESF etc.

Selected Publications
  • Martens JH, Brinkman AB, Simmer F, Francoijs KJ, Nebbioso A, Ferrara F, Altucci L, Stunnenberg HG.PML-RARalpha/RXR Alters the Epigenetic Landscape in Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. Cancer Cell. 2010 Feb 17;17(2):173-85.
  • Borbone E, Berlingieri MT, De Bellis F, Nebbioso A, Chiappetta G, Mai A, Altucci L*, Fusco A*. Histone deacetylase inhibitors induce thyroid cancer specific apoptosis via proteasome dependent inhibition of TRAIL degradation. Oncogene. 2010 Jan 7;29(1):105-16. Epub 2009 Oct 5.
  • Pattabhiraman S, Rossin A, Khanwalkar H, Alvarez S, Alvarez R, Jacobson A, Nebbioso A, de Lera AR, Altucci L, Gronemeyer H. Growth factor-antagonized rexinoid apoptosis involves permissive PPAR"/RXR heterodimers to activate the intrinsic death pathway by NO. Cancer Cell, 2009 16(3):220-31.
  • Nebbioso A, Manzo F, Miceli M, Conte M, Manente L, Baldi A, De Luca A, Rotili Valente S, Mai A, Usiello A, Gronemeyer H, Altucci L*. Selective class II HDAC inhibitors impair myogenesis by modulating the stability and activity of HDAC-MEF2 complexes. EMBO Rep. 2009 (7):776-82.
  • Nebbioso A, Clarke N, Voltz E, Germain E, Ambrosino C, Bontempo P, Alvarez R, Schiavone EM, Ferrara F, Bresciani F, Weisz A, de Lera AR, Gronemeyer H and Altucci L*. Tumor-selective action of HDAC inhibitors involves TRAIL induction in acute myeloid leukemia cells. Nat Med. 2005 Jan;11(1):71-6.
  • Prof. A. de Lera, University of Vigo, Spain.
  • Prof. A. Mai, Università di Roma La Sapienza, Roma, IT
  • Dr. M. Tini ‘Department of Physiology and Pharmacology’, University of Western Ontario, Canada.
  • Dr. R Wasserkort, Epigenomics, Berlin, DE
  • Dr M. Esteller, IDIBELL, Barcelona, ES
  • Prof. H Stunnenberg, Radboud University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  • Prof. A.G. Kazantsev, MIT Boston, US
  • Dr RW Johnstone, Melbourne, AU

Keywords: Epigenetic, Cancer, Apoptosis

Lucia Altucci

CNR Honorary Appointment (Associato CNR)

+39 081 6132 420

Staff Members:

Nunzio Del Gaudio
PhD Student (Dottorando)

Carmela dell'Aversana
Fellow (Borsista)

Cristina Giorgio
PhD Student (Dottorando)

Marco Miceli
Fellow (Borsista)