Area of Interest
As a translational physician scientist, my career goal is to consolidate and expand a current program of research aimed at discovering effective strategies for individualizing therapy for cancer patients. This program aims to reach this goal through the identification of genetic determinants of outcomes of chemotherapy in cancer patients, both in the laboratory and the clinic. The lab discovers and tests the biological function of novel germline genetic variants that might serve as markers of severe toxicity and survival in cancer patients treated with angiogenesis inhibitors and other chemotherapy agents. This research integrates whole-genome strategies with more targeted, gene-based strategies. It requires multidisciplinary efforts that span from the discovery of potential genetic biomarkers to validation of their clinical utility in intervention trials in cancer patients.
Prospective Research Statement
Translational program in cancer pharmacogenomics
This program integrates genomic investigation into clinical studies of patients treated with chemotherapy. The results of these investigations will be also supported by the functional evaluation of biological mechanisms of gene variation.
A framework of clinical, epidemiology, and laboratory studies has been already built, and some of these studies are ongoing. The program is articulated in three main themes:
Theme 1: Clinical genome-wide and candidate gene investigations of anticancer drugs. These studies provide the platform for discovery and implementation of genomic markers of individualize therapy in oncology. GWAS, sequencing, and targeted intervention studies are ongoing.
Theme 2: Functional genetics of angiogenesis genes. This research addresses how functional germline variants of VEGF-pathway genes affect the in vitro action of VEGF-pathway inhibitors and gene expression in tumors. The results of these studies propose novel biomarkers for clinical investigation and will enrich the clinical associations of Theme 1.
Theme 3: Genome-wide regulation of gene expression in the human liver. This project provides a comprehensive assessment of the heritable component of gene expression variation in the liver. These results represent a useful resource for UNC faculty and the scientific community as a whole. They serve as the knowledge basis for any pharmacogenetic study (like those in Theme 1).
Awards and Honors
- NCI: Gastrointestinal Steering Committee Colon Task Force, Translational Science Representative, 2013 – present
- American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASCPT): Chair of the Oncology Section, 2012 – present)
- American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics Leon I Goldberg Young Investigator Award, 2012
- Alliance of Clinical Trials in Oncology: Chair of the Gastrointestinal Solid Tumor Correlative Science Group, 2011 – present
- Cancer Research Foundation, Young Investigator Award, 2006
- Award for training in a foreign institution by the Italian Society of Pharmacology, 1998 – 1999
- One-year fellowship award for training in a foreign institution awarded by the National Research Council, Rome, Italy, 1998 – 1999