Translational Research in Oncology

Especially in oncology, basic and translational research go hand in hand with the aim of advancing the discoveries of the “bench to bedside” laboratory and promoting improvement in clinical outcomes and quality of life for patients diagnosed with this disease.

While basic cancer research is focused on discovering fundamental details of tumor biology, such as new gene regulation mechanisms, mutations or biochemical processes. Translational research aims at applicability and transfer of basic findings to patients.

In this line of research, we investigate the molecular and immunological mechanisms that control neoplastic progression and metastasis. Our goal is to identify biomarkers with potential for diagnosis, prognosis and/or therapy.

The approach used focuses on three techniques: immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence and flow cytometry.

Using specific antibodies, we employ immunohistochemistry and/or direct or indirect immunofluorescence techniques to identify immune cells and other neoplastic targets. These antibodies, when conjugated to fluorescent polymers or molecules, allow us to visualize immunolabeled cells under light and fluorescence microscopy.

The second strategy is immunophenotyping performed through flow cytometry. This technique consists of identifying cell populations through their receptors, seeking to identify the exact type of cell that makes up a given biological sample, allowing studies that define the content of cells in the immune system and tumors.

Immunophenotyping is performed from the analysis of a sample collected from the patient, which can be blood or bone marrow fluid – the most common – and, less frequently, tissues collected for biopsy and allows the simultaneous analysis of multiple parameters of a cell or particle. The flow cytometer is capable of analyzing multiple particles every second in “real time” and can actively separate and isolate particles with specific properties.

In oncology, immunophenotyping is applied to more accurate research and diagnosis of numerous types of cancer, including leukemias, lymphomas and some tumors. In addition, it helps in the choice of treatment, prognosis, monitoring of disease progression and response to therapy (Minimum Residual Disease Monitoring – MRD). The great advantage is the ability to evaluate, in a short period of time, a large number of cells with high sensitivity and specificity, providing the results with sufficient information for accurate diagnoses without the need for further tests.

This line of research aims to unravel genetic and/or epigenetic disorders that result in altered gene expression, which in turn reflect changes in metabolic pathways that lead to cellular loss of control, which characterizes the tumorigenesis process. As well as translating the results obtained in these researches to clinical practice, enabling new applications of genomics as clinically useful tests for prevention, tracking and more effective treatment of patients.

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has been the main tool used in the laboratory’s scientific investigations to carry out:

  • Exome sequencing: sequencing of all exons in the human genome, which correspond to the coding regions of all genes.
  • Sequencing of gene panels: sequencing of a set of genes associated with a particular diagnostic suspicion.
  • RNA-Seq: Large-scale sequencing of coding and non-coding RNAs. Provides global gene expression profiling and detection of poorly expressed transcripts.

This approach allows great advances towards better understanding the alterations present in the structure of DNA and RNA related to cell transformation, development, tumor growth and metastases. This knowledge reveals activated and inactivated gene pathways in tumors and genetic mechanisms involved in resistance to treatments that can be used as molecular markers for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer within a personalized medicine strategy applied to oncology.

Thus, the perspective of this research proposal is to provide solutions focused on overcoming technological challenges involved in the generation of biotechnological health products in Brazil, generating innovation through research basic, applied and translational, which will contribute to reducing external dependence on products and technologies.

Researchers and Technicians

Graduate Students

  • Thayse Batista Moreira, http://lattes.cnpq.br/9676392944739840
  • Adriana Jacaúna de Oliveira http://lattes.cnpq.br/9031901282134953
  • Francine Barros de Oliveira http://lattes.cnpq.br/8977715656527656

Scientific initiation students

  • Erick de Matos Santos http://lattes.cnpq.br/9856468347914314
  • Anna Carolina Tavares de Oliveira http://lattes.cnpq.br/9877230561950118
  • Rafaela Lopes Figueiredo de Andrade http://lattes.cnpq.br/8572470354178447
  • Sofia Godinho Dias de Souza http://lattes.cnpq.br/4620683153203359

Image: Ion Chef equipment for “Next Generation” sequencing.

The Translational Research Laboratory has three platforms:

(1) The Immunohistopathology platform is equipped with light and epi-immunofluorescence optical microscopes [Nikon Eclipse Ci]

(2) Flow cytometry platform with two cytometers [FACScelesta e FACScanto II]

(3) The Molecular Biology platform with three new generation sequencers [Ion Torrent PGM, Nextseq and Miniseq] , in addition to equipment for quantification and integrity analysis of nucleic acids, equipment for real-time and conventional quantitative PCR.

For information about basic or translational research activities, ongoing projects and new projects, please contact us by e-mail: Pesquisa.translacional@mariopenna.org.br

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