Stefano Casola, 2006

Stefano Casola

Career Development Award Project Title

“The role of the B cell antigen receptor in the pathogenesis of B cell lymphomas. Lessons from mouse models”, 2006

Who he is 

Stefano Casola is a molecular oncologist specialized in the study of the processes controlling B lymphocyte differentiation and malignant B cell transformation.

After receiving his MD and PhD degrees from the University Federico II of Naples, he joined the Institute of Genetics at the University of Cologne in Germany as post-doctoral fellow, working in the group of immunologist K. Rajewsky. Here he began to study the function of genes controlling normal B cells development and their involvement in the occurrence of malignant lymphomas, blood tumors that affect lymphocytes.

After his postdoc experience, Casola moved on to the Harvard Medical School in Boston becoming Junior Investigator at the CBR Institute for Biomedical Research and Instructor in the Department of Pathology. In 2006, he returned to Italy thanks to the Armenise-Harvard Career Development Award and to the Italian Foundation for Cancer Research, to lead his own laboratory at the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology (IFOM) in Milan.

There he set up the research program on Genetics of B cells and lymphomas, dedicated to the study of immune cells and their malignant cancerous counterparts.

What he does

His lab studies B cell immunity and lymphomas, common forms of blood cancers, often resulting from an aberrant response of the immune system. When B cells recognize a pathogen, such as a virus or bacteria, they produce antibodies to fight it. This process relies on the massive expansion of pathogen-specific B cells, which is accompanied by genetic rearrangements that ensure lymphocytes to produce antibodies with greater neutralizing activity. Alterations in this highly coordinated process lead to the development of malignant B cell lymphomas.

Casola’s research team is also interested in understanding the physiological process controlling B-cell dependent immune responses.

News from the Lab

Using pre-clinical models and the most advanced technologies for genomic analysis, Casola’s team has recently identified about a hundred novel candidate genes implicated in the development of lymphomas.

Such findings, combined with ongoing investigations on the role of the immunoglobulin receptor in cancerous B cells, are expected to improve diagnostics and prognostics of human B cell malignancies. They are also intended to accelerate the development of patient-tailored therapies to overcome treatment failures that still occur in about a third of the patients diagnosed with aggressive forms of lymphomas.