Cancer cell death


Our lab studies apoptosis (the main form of programmed cell death) and it’s effectors, mitochondria and caspases. Beside having an important role in development, apoptosis is often affected in several pathologies: in cancer, apoptosis is most of the time blocked allowing rapid tumour growth, while in neurodegenerative diseases there is an excess of apoptosis.

The key player in apoptosis is the mitochondria, an organelle that on one side provides the energy needed for survival while it also holds the power to kill the same cell: this happens when the mitochondria permeabilise following a lethal stress and triggers caspase activation. Caspases are proteases that efficiently kill the cell within minutes.

Our team is interested in non-canonical roles that mitochondria and caspases have in tumourigenesis and development. Since it was recently showed that only few mitochondria can permeabilise allowing non-lethal caspase activation, we currently investigate the role of this discrete caspase activation in various settings ranging from cancer cell migration and invasion to stemness or senescence.