Rebecca Bertolio in the Cancer Cell Signaling Laboratory at ICGEB in Trieste, Italy.

AIRC Foundation funds projects for cutting-edge cancer research at ICGEB

The AIRC Foundation for Cancer Research has funded a series of 5-year Investigator Grants, a start-up grant, and a 5xmille programme grant as well as 3-year fellowships for ICGEB researchers.

In January, the Italian Foundation, AIRC announced new investments to support the work of more than 6,000 researchers spread throughout the country. In the Region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, more than 2.5 million euro have been approved to support 23 research projects and 3 scholarships. A significant part of these have been allocated to the ICGEB.

“AIRC is one of our major donors,” says Director-General Lawrence Banks, who also heads a laboratory that receives AIRC funding for research into the genetic and molecular mechanisms of cancer development. “The five-year Investigator Grants support projects led by established researchers, four of which have been awarded to ICGEB.”

Prof. Giannino Del Sal head of the Laboratory of Cancer Cell Signaling at ICGEB, Professor of Biology at the Department of Life Sciences University of Trieste and researcher at the IFOM institute, holds an AIRC grant under the AIRC 5×1000 research programmes for a study on breast cancer metastasis, and another grant to study the role of mutated forms of the onco-suppressor p53 (alterations that affect about 50 percent of all human cancers) in metabolic changes in cancer cells.

“In a few months time, the 19th international p53 workshop will be held right here in Trieste,” says Del Sal, “The event will bring together scientists and experts from around the world to discuss the latest discoveries and innovations related to the biology of p53. It will be an opportunity to delve into the intricate role of p53 in cancer and explore the most promising approaches in precision medicine to target cancers with alterations on p53.”

L-R: Prof. Giannino Del Sal, Prof. Giovanni Sorrentino e la Dr.ssa Rebecca Bertolio - tre generazioni di studio del p53
L-R: Giannino Del Sal, Giovanni Sorrentino and Rebecca Bertolio, studying p53 through three generations

An AIRC start-up grant has been awarded to Dr. Giovanni Sorrentino, Group Leader of the recently established Advanced Disease Models Laboratory at ICGEB. Professor of Histology in the Department of Medical, Surgical and Health Sciences at the University of Trieste, says “I am deeply grateful to the Italian Cancer Research Association for the generous and valuable support provided in funding my research projects on chronic liver disease. The investment in young researchers represents a beacon of hope in our shared effort to improve the lives of those struggling with cancer diseases.”

One of the 3-year AIRC grants awarded to ICGEB went to Rebecca Bertolio, a researcher in the Del Sal laboratory.

“In a recent study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, we have identified novel activity of mutated forms of the onco-suppressor p53 (mut-p53), revealing the crucial role of these p53 variants in reprogramming amino acid metabolism, which is critical for breast cancer cell survival.”

“Our results highlight potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited to treat breast cancers with TP53 onco0suppressor mutations.”

The second AIRC grant went to Dr. Fabio La Penta, a young researcher in the Tumour Virology Laboratory, directed by Dr. Lawrence Banks.

For the year 2024, AIRC has approved more than 143 million euros in total, for 695 research projects, 93 grants, and 15 special programmes.