I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cancer and Cellular Biology in the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and a cancer biologist who has committed her career to finding a cure for metastatic breast cancer. Inspired by my mother, an elementary school teacher who taught science to children through simple experiments with plants, I decided to pursue a career in science. I very much wanted to help others, and still believe that scientific discovery is one of the greatest paths to solving many of humanity’s problems. Therefore, I pursued a Bachelor and Master degree at the University of Teramo, in Italy. During my master degree, I had the opportunity to work at the University of Belfast in Ireland for a project related to my work. For the first time, I saw cancer patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Ireland, and my reaction was “There must be something that I can do for them!”. This formative experience made me realize the importance of translational research and pushed me to pursue a PhD in cancer biology.
I received the Leonardo Da Vinci fellowship from the University of Rome in Italy, that allowed me to expand my understanding of cancer biology, tumor angiogenesis, and breast cancer. In 2012, I earned a PhD in Cancer Biology and Pharmacology from the Medical University of Paris in France. Fascinated by the role of the microenvironment in cancer progression, I moved to the United States after completing my graduate studies and joined Dr. Yves DeClerck’s laboratory at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and University of Southern California, to study how tumor-stroma interactions drive tumor progression and therapeutic resistance in neuroblastoma, the second most common cancer in children.
Intrigued by the crucial role of the tumor microenvironment in metastasis, and the power of imaging technologies, I pursued additional training in the laboratory of Dr. John Condeelis and Dr. David Entenberg at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY. There, in collaboration with Dr. Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, I studied the role of the tumor microenvironment in tumor cell dissemination, dormancy and metastasis using novel cutting-edge imaging technology.
In 2022, I accepted a job as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cancer and Cellular Biology in the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. My laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanisms of tumor dormancy and metastatic recurrence with the goal of improving the lives of cancer patients.
As an independent investigator, I have three major goals: 1) Establish a solid translational cancer research program to develop new therapeutic strategies to keep tumor cells “in a perpetual dormant state”, therefore preventing/blocking metastasis and reducing cancer mortality. 2) Continue to train and inspire the next generation of scientists. I believe it is a privilege to be able to engage with our mentees, to share our passion for science, and to inspire and encourage them. 3) Continue my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I will nurture a lab philosophy and culture in which all individuals have equal opportunity.