The ability to bridge large-scale and single cell approaches at a functional level are key to identify biomarkers expressed in rare cells, and particularly in cancer stem cells (CSCs). We are an interdisciplinary group that investigates and develops key experimental approaches to understand the principles underlying the emergence and prevention of tumorigenesis and cancer therapy resistance, with the aim to translate biomedical science into integrated clinical practice and public health with certified transference processes in cooperation with trusted allies and partners.
Since nearly three decades we study the implications of multidrug resistance transporters in stem and cancer cell biology. The cancer stem cell (CSC) model has been established as a cellular mechanism that contributes to phenotypic and functional heterogeneity in diverse cancer types. Recent observations, however, have highlighted many complexities and challenges: the CSC phenotype can vary substantially between patients, tumours may harbour multiple phenotypically or genetically distinct CSCs, metastatic CSCs can evolve from primary CSCs, and tumour cells may undergo reversible phenotypic changes.
Given that current clinical application of functional cytomics remains largely confined to few specific academic centres, our goal is to provide the patients with a wide range of scientific support strategies, through precision, oversight and accuracy.
Our current research
Our ongoing research projects cover innovative approaches to study the expression of primitive stem cell markers during origin, progression, maintenance of cancer and its management; the quality and safety assessment of haematopoietic blood progenitor and stem cell grafts; the role of myeloid derived suppressor cells in immunotherapy and targeted therapy for clinical decision-making; new cytomic strategies for whole blood and marrow immunostaining; the use of natural compounds for cancer treatment; and the accurate detection and significance of minimal residual disease in acute leukaemia.
Our goal is to provide the patients with a wide range of scientific support strategies, through precision, oversight and accuracy to integrate:
• Clinical implementation of functional cytomic asays. Precision/personaized high-quality assays for individual patients, by integrating functional cytomics to accelerate new experimental approaches for ex vivo and in vivo drug sensitivity.
• Translation of functional screening into novel clinical strategies. Measure the impact of exogenous interventions such as drug exposure on tumour cell phenotype.
• The understanding of drug resistance and the prediction of effective drug combinations.
• The reduction of costs by obtaining specialized instrumentation and personnel for execution of cytomic screens in partnership with stakeholders and biotechnological partners.
• Functional and immunophenotyping data sets aimed at understanding complex functional-to-phenotype correlations and, thereby, accelerate discovery of the biology of leukemogenesis as well as the clinical implementation of novel therapies.
Outcomes of our research
Because personalized medicine is able to provide the right therapy, in the right dose, improving patient stratification and prediction of disease, we expect to make available:
• Better diagnosis and earlier intervention. Cytome analysis could determine precisely whether patients are susceptible to drug toxicities, and choose the optimal treatment strategy.
• Individualized drug selection. Here we consider which molecular and functional models best predict how a patient will respond to a therapy to develop accurate and cost-effective tests.
• Drug development challenges. A better understanding of clinical observations made during individualized drug development and conventional therapy will help to identify new disease subtypes and their associated molecular pathways, and design drugs that target them with more efficient trials.
Clinical Cytometry Education Network (CCEN)
As a result of a generous grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation (WHCF), the International Clinical Cytometry Society (ICCS) and the European Society for Clinical Cell Analysis (ESCCA) have partnered with the WHCF to form the Clinical Cytometry Education Network (CCEN) formerly called the Bi-Society Project. This is a multi-faceted collaboration endeavoring to create educational resources for the international clinical cytometry community.
Some of our goals include: to host practical clinical cytometry courses in both developed and developing countries, develop various e-learning content, including online courses, short video, and clinical cases, and to facilitate training of young professionals via the Visitor Training Program.