Prof. Ann Zeuner – “Stem cells, cancer and microenvironment: from biology to therapy”

IGB Seminar 5 Febbraio 2024 - Zeuner

Prof. Ann Zeuner
Research Director, Head of Division “Preclinical Research and Clinical Trials in Hematology and Oncology”
Department of Oncology and Molecular Medicine
National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità), Rome, Italy
Phone: +39-06-49906060

Expert in biomedical sciences, specialized in translational cancer research, personalized preclinical models and development of new cancer therapies. Author of 74 publications in international scientific journals (including Nature, Science, Blood, Cell Stem Cell) and member of the Scientific Board of the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC), Prof. Zeuner was team leader in 21 research projects funded by national and international Institutions and filed 3 patents for new oncological therapies. She has been manager of a multicentric AIRC “5xmille” program and coordinator of an international network of centers working on colorectal cancer in the Mediterranean area (COLOMED, Italian Ministry of Health). She obtained a Master’s degree in Science Communication at the International School of Advanced Studies (ISAS/SISSA) in Trieste and combines research work with a constant dissemination activity in the field of cancer prevention and therapy. Currently she is Research Director and head of Unit at the Department of Oncology and Molecular Medicine (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) and Professor at the PhD course in Personalized Medicine at Palermo University.


Cancer incidence in Italy is rising with more than 6000 new cases every year, increasingly involving a younger population of patients. At the same time, approximately 6% of the population lives with a previous diagnosis of cancer and this percentage is going to increase in the next years. New sophisticated therapeutic tools are being developed such as immunotherapeutics, targeted and personalized treatment approaches. However, such tools are often effective on a minority of patients and/or display effects of limited duration. Therefore, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy remain the mainstay of cancer treatment. This landscape indicates an unmet need to deeply understand the response of cancer cells to therapies and their interaction with the tumor microenvironment. The large majority of tumors contain a population of cells with the features of stem cells (including increased regenerative potential and expression of embryonic factors) that are widely resistant to therapies. Moreover, cancer stem cells (CSCs) can disseminate at pre-metastatic sites at a very early stage and remain dormant for a variable period of time (that, in breast cancer, has been shown to extend up to 32 years from diagnosis). These cells are resistant to virtually all pharmacologic approaches and can reactivate to generate a new and often more aggressive tumor at the primary location or in metastatic sites. In our presentation, we will illustrate the characteristics of CSCs, their interactions with the microenvironment and the implications for cancer therapy. We will discuss the importance of controlling CSCs for a long-term success of cancer treatment, in terms either of eradication or chronicization of the disease. Finally, we’ll highlight the need of a paradigm shift in both theoretical and clinical approaches that takes into consideration the central role of the tumor microenvironment in both active and latent tumors.



Feb 05 2024


12:00 - 13:00


CNR Conference Room


Ombretta Guardiola
+39 081 6132 454