PhD: Virginia Catani


Each month we are going to be highlighting one of the PhD’s of the project so their work can be showcased. We continue with Virginia Catani, PhD in UNIMORE. We are asking the PhD’s five questions and here is how Virginia answered.

Good morning Virginia, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Since 2022 I am a PhD Student in Clinical and Experimental Medicine-Translational Medicine at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE). In April 2021 I completed Master’s Degree in Medical, Pharmaceutical and Veterinary Biotechnology at UNIMORE. During my Master’s program, I had the opportunity to perform my MSC’s thesis in Germany at the Institute of Transfusion Medicine and Immunology-FlowCore Mannheim. This experience marked my introduction to the fascinating world of Extracellular Vesicles. The Master Thesis’s project was mainly aimed to compare cell culture 2D vs 3D of mesenchymal stromal/stem cells derived from human adipose tissue to generate EVS. Followed the isolation and characterization of EVs, they were also tested in live cell imaging for Angiogenesis assay based on the in vitro ability of EVs to induce HUVEC cells in tube formation. I have always firmly believed in research and its continuous evolution.  As a result of my studies and experience, I focused on regenerative and personalized medicine in which the pre-clinical phase takes place in the laboratory or on animal models, and plays a key role before reaching the clinical-phase on patients.

Could you explain your last paper or discovery?

Currently, my PhD project is focusing in investigation of EVs-derived miRNAs and proteins as a novels biomarker directly from liquid biopsy of oncology patients, bypassing the limitations associated with tissue biopsy. Specifically, through the analysis of serum and plasma collected from patients before and after treatment (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and surgery), we are seeking to identify new reliable and accurate disease biomarkers. These biomarkers can be used for diagnostic, prognostic, and treatment response prediction purposes. Establishing a uniform procedure that can be used across a range of solid tumor types, encompassing breast cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, renal cell carcinoma and head&neck carcinoma.

Which is the advancement for science and technology that you are currently studying?

I believe that EVs are the one of the most current and extensively researched topics. From the content preserved within EVs, it is possible to glean crucial information in various fields of research, particularly in a tumor environment where cell-to-cell communication is pivotal. In summary, research on EVs tumor-derived promises to enhance cancer diagnosis, treatment, and management, contributing to saving lives and improving the quality of life for patients affected by this disease.

Which would you say are the possible impacts on society?

The impact of liquid biopsy has revolutionized the field of clinical oncology, providing ease in tumor sampling and becoming increasingly important in the clinical-cancer scenario for early diagnosis and treatment stratification, as well as for identifying residual disease and monitoring recurrences.

Is there someone you want to acknowledge?

Certainly, I would like to express my gratitude to my tutor Prof. Massimo Dominici, my EV-colleague Ilenia Mastrolia, and all the BOWers for providing us with this wonderful opportunity. They are a youthful, exceptional, and motivating team.