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Voice from the Lab: Dr. Silvia Ottaviani

I am a Research Associate in the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College, working with Professor Justin Stebbing. As well as carrying out my scientific research supported by Action Against Cancer, I supervise Masters and PhD students.

What are you currently working on?

I am investigating the molecular mechanisms that drive pancreatic cancer progression. I am looking at tiny molecules called non-coding RNAs and their role in this disease. With the rest of my team, we identified crucial RNA molecules that drive the aggressiveness and spread of cancer. We are now working on developing inhibitors for these molecules that could be used as a therapy for patients. With the help of a group from the faculty of engineering at Imperial College, we aim to find a suitable therapy delivery system.

Another area of research I am very excited about working on now is looking at cancer at the single cell level. Scientists used to think that tumours were populations of similar cells, and treatments were consistent with this theory. With the rest of my team, we identified crucial RNA molecules that drive the aggressiveness and spread of cancer, and published a paper with these findings in May 2018. New technology means we can now analyse at the level of individual cells, showing that tumours are in fact made up of very different cells. This research will give important insights in the biology of cancer and will highlight new targets for therapy.

Read more about this project here.

What motivates you?

My strongest motivation has been always my family. Cancer is a disease that has affected us deeply. I have lost close family members to lung, pancreatic, laryngeal and breast cancer, and grew up constantly hearing this word. I was very young when I knew I wanted to study this disease, understand the biological mechanisms and advance the research in the field so that we can provide better therapies for patients.

Read more Voices from the Lab here: Dr. Elena Lopez-Jimenez, Rosemary Lane, Neha Tabassum, Dr. Philip Lawton and Dr. Niklas Feldhahn.

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