The common goal of the partnership with the AIRC Foundation, which falls into the field of Assistance and scientific research, is to advance cancer research in our country, with particular support for outstanding scientific prowess in the regions of Southern Italy.
Context and partnership
Every day in Italy, around 1000 people are diagnosed with cancer, demonstrating that the disease remains a serious health emergency. The latest available data, from 2020, showed that 3.6 million citizens were living after being diagnosed with cancer: this accounts for 6 percent of the population, with an increase of 36 percent since 2010.
As for cancer research and treatment, however, there is still a gap between the North and South of the country, caused by the lack of centres able to bring world-class scientists and new generations of researchers together and facilitate collaboration between them.
To narrow this regional gap and promote the formation of collaborative networks that have a positive impact on local areas, the AIRC Foundation and CDP Foundation have decided to support the projects of two established researchers working in southern Italy. The funding for the projects led by these two female scientists underscores both Foundations' commitment to supporting the careers of female researchers in Italian science: women account for 62% of over 5000 researchers supported by the AIRC.
Through the partnership, €1 million has been allocated to support the projects of two scientists working in southern Italy: Francesca Pisani, of the National Research Council of Naples, and Clelia Tiziana Storlazzi, of the University of Bari Aldo Moro.
Each of the researchers will receive a grant of around €500,000 over five years, during which the ongoing activities will be subject to technical audits. The funds will be used for experiments, purchasing scientific equipment and covering costs for research personnel, with the ultimate aim of establishing new methods of diagnosing and treating cancer.
The projects were selected through an international peer-review process consisting of evaluations based on scientific merit carried out by independent reviewers chosen from the leading cancer experts in Italy and other countries throughout the world.
The first study, led by molecular biologist Francesca Pisani, Senior Researcher at the National Research Council of Naples (Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology), focuses on the role of a specific enzyme (called FANCJ helicase DNA) and mutations related to this enzyme. In people who carry them, these mutations increase the risk of ovarian and breast cancers. Breast tumors are the most common neoplasm in Italy (and other countries), while ovarian cancer, although rarer, remains still difficult to treat.
Biologist Clelia Tiziana Storlazzi, Associate Professor of Genetics at the University of Bari Aldo Moro, is leading the second project. The aim of this study is to learn more about the molecular characteristics of Pulmonary microcytoma, a disease that remains very difficult to treat.