My research activity is focused on cell physiology, with a particular interest on the role of intracellular Ca2+ and Ca2+ channels in the angiogenic process by combining calcium imaging and live cell imaging thechniques with cell biology.
Due to its multifaceted role in the control of cell proliferation and motility, Ca2+ signalling is implicated in tumour progression as well as in the regulation of angiogenesis. The discovery of Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) superfamily of channels provided putative candidates for non-voltage-gated Ca2+ entry mechanisms. Notably, several TRP proteins are up regulated in cancer cells and have been suggested as valuable markers in predicting cancer progress and as potential targets for pharmaceutical therapy. In this context, the work undertaken by the PI over recent years demonstrates that tumour vascularization involves specific changes in TRP channel expression and/or activity. In particular the cold/menthol-sensitive TRPM8 (belonging to the ‘melastatin’ TRP subfamily) has emerged as an important factor in cell migration and PCa progression. TRPM8 expression is up-regulated in early PCa, and then decreases with tumour progression to the late, invasive, androgen-insensitive stage.
The identification of the full ion channel signature involved in carcinogenesis and in particular in tumor vascularization, together with the underlying molecular mechanisms, is therefore vital to translate basic concepts into new diagnostic and therapeutical strategies.