RESEARCH GROUP

Paola Allavena

Description about this page
  • Paola Allavena Head of the Laboratory, Cellular Immunology View More

Contact Information

  • Address
    Campus Building C, Via Rita Levi Montalcini, 4 20090 Pieve Emanuele, Milano
  • Telephone
    +39 02 8224 5112
  • Fax
    +39 02 8224 5101
  • E-mail
    paola.allavena@humanitasresearch.it

The main research lines of the Laboratory of Cellular Immunology relate to the interaction between cells of the immune system and cancer cells.  In particular the group is focused on the characterization of tumor-associated macrophages (TAM), cells of the innate immunity able to promote tumor progression, and how these macrophages can be targeted or re-educated in therapeutic approaches. Another research line, is the global analysis of leukocytes  (immunoscore) infiltrating human solid tumors  and how these specific immune-related  variables can be exploited as markers of prognosis and response to therapy.

Macro-areas of research

We study how tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are influenced by the presence of tumor cells and the mechanisms through which macrophages mediate their tumor-promoting functions. Novel macrophage-derived products have been identified with a transcriptional profiling of TAMs and are now investigated for their functional role on tumor cells. Examples include molecules inducing cancer cell motility and metastatic ability and regulation of cancer cell stemness. Another research project is to identify the role of macrophages at sites of perineural tumor invasion, where tumor cells invade peripheral nerves, and to disclose novel mechanisms of the neuro-immune axis in the regulation of tumor growth

As macrophages are involved in several key steps of cancer progression, we developed strategies to targeting TAMs in pre-clinical therapeutic settings. These included, in the past, the direct depletion of TAMs with a registered chemotherapeutic agent: trabectedin, demonstrated to be selectively cytotoxic for monocytes-macrophages. More recently we are interested in novel Nanotechnology approaches to target TAMs with functionalized, drug-loaded Nanoparticles. We use immune-modulatory drugs with the aim to re-educate macrophages into anti-tumor cytotoxic effectors and test their efficacy in experimental tumor models.

A main research line is the identification of immune-associated variables with clinical relevance in human tumors, such as pancreatic and colo-rectal  cancers and liver metastases, and malignant mesothelioma. We analyze relevant biospecimens, including tumor samples, blood and other fluids (e.g.pancreatic juice), to quantify immune cells and their products, including metabolic products. The final goal is to identify potential markers associated with distinct clinical profiles and validate their usefulness for the early diagnosis of tumors and  for their prognostic relevance  in patient response to therapies.

    Selected Publications

  • Paola Allavena Publications

    Selected Publications: 20-25 publications listed in details with all the contributing authors, title of the papers, journal, dates.   Mantovani A*, Marchesi F*, Malesci A, Laghi L, Allavena P*. Tumor-associated ...

Group Members