DR.ORIANA MAZZITELLI | Making Cancer treatment more efficient

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

​​Meet Oriana

My first degree was a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biology and Chemistry, then I got a Masters in Biochemistry researching genetic diversity in Maltese Olive Cultivars. In October 2020, I obtained my PhD. I have always been interested in biological and medical sciences, and now I know that immunology is my true passion. My laboratory skills include culturing and analysis of T cells, cell isolation techniques, flow cytometry (including Fluorescent Activated Cell Sorting), nucleic acid extraction, gel electrophoresis and PCR.

Making Cancer treatment more efficient

My PhD project focused on the modulation of immunosuppressive cells, called Regulatory T cells (Treg), which help prevent autoimmune diseases. However, when released inside the tumour microenvironment, Treg aid cancer cells to evade the immune system and promote tumour growth. Therefore, downregulation of these cells might improve the results of cancer immunotherapeutic treatments. The aim of this project was to convert in vitro Treg cells into immune effector T cells that boost the cancer immune response. Conversion was analysed by monitoring changes in the Treg. The results achieved were diverse, reflecting the plasticity of Treg. Some agents reduced Treg signature markers and Treg suppressor function, others enhanced these and would therefore be more useful for other purposes, such as for management of autoimmune diseases.

The Next step…

The next phase would be testing a combinational treatment regime to check whether the effect of the agents that reduced Treg function is additive or synergistic. The ultimate phase would be to in vivo studies with animal models to test the treatment efficacy in complex tumour microenvironments. This is imperative to determine the right treatment doses and the best route of administration.

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