Annalisa Di Ruscio, 2015
Career Development Award Project Title
“Molecular and Biological role of DNMT1-RNA interactions in leukemia”, 2015
Who she is
Born in Sulmona (L’Aquila), Annalisa Di Ruscio graduated in medicine at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart) of Rome, with a specialization in hematology. In 2007 she moved to Boston, where she earned a PhD while working in the Daniel Tenen laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School. Di Ruscio was officially awarded the Career Development Award in May 20, 2015 in Boston at the event “Science – The Italian Opportunity“, in the presence of Senatrice Elena Cattaneo.
Her work as a researcher received recognition also on June 26, 2014 with the “Silvia Fiocco” Award presented to her by President Giorgio Napolitano: “For research on leukemia, lymphomas and heart disease, for the leading publications presented, the quality of the journals and the number of citations. “. On September 2015, Di Ruscio joined the Amedeo Avogadro University of Eastern Piedmont in Novara to direct the Giovanni Armenise-Harvard Foundation Laboratory of RNA research.
What she does
Annalisa Di Ruscio’s research deals with the study of molecular mechanisms that can activate or deactivate genes that stop the development of cancer cells.
In particular, while in in Boston, Di Ruscio identified a class of RNA that controls DNA methylation. DNA methylation is a fundamental mechanism in gene regulation which, thanks to specific enzymes, can “switch on” or “switch off” individual genes.
In many tumors, methylation becomes irregular and “anticancer” genes such as tumor suppressor genes are switched off, which should instead be switched on. For this reason the mechanism identified by Di Ruscio could be used in clinical practice to develop new targeted drugs, able to reactivate the genes (such as tumor suppressor genes) that were erroneously methylated. This would open up new frontiers in the fight against cancer, thanks to more selective molecules that have fewer side effects.
News from the Lab
Annalisa Di Ruscio returned to Italy at the end of 2015 and is currently working to set up her Laboratory of RNA research at the Amedeo Avogadro University of Eastern Piedmont in Novara. Her research will focus on DNA methylation as a key epigenetic signature implicated in regulation of gene expression. The objective is contributing to our understanding of natural mechanisms that control cell type-specific DNA methylation in cancer biology and to provide novel tools and protocols for targeted gene-specific alteration of DNA methylation.