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Unravelling cell division mechanisms to understand cancer

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  • Venue: Collegio A Volta, Pavia
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On the 30th of October 2018 Pier Paolo D’Avino, of the University of Cambridge will give a seminar entitled Unravelling cell division mechanisms to understand cancer at 2.00 pm in the College lecture theatre.  In his talk PP D’Avino will discuss the complex regulation of the cell cycle of animal cells and will highlight the different stages in which cancer cells can subvert cell cycle check points causing uncontrolled cell division and multiplication. This is a major area of research in cancer biology, the importance of which has been recognised earlier this centrury with Nobel Pizes to P Nurse an T Hunt and confirmed by the development of new anti-cancer compounds aimed at restoring cell cycle control in cancer cells. All College students are invited to attend, especially those reading Medicine, Biology, Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The poster of the lecture can be downloaded here.

Cell division is one of the most fundamental biological processes. It is essential for growth, development and reproduction in many organisms, including humans. Cell division faithfully partitions the genomic information between the two daughter cells and errors in this process have been implicated in many human diseases, such as chromosomal syndromes, sterility and cancer. In many cancers, defects in cell division generate chromosomal instability (CIN), which consists of recurrent chromosomal changes that contribute to tumorigenesis by altering the balance of critical growth and death pathways. Although its role in cancer onset is still debated, CIN has been implicated in cancer evolution, diversification and heterogeneity, is associated with poor clinical outcome and drug resistance, and has been suggested to play a role in the development of metastases. Thus, a thorough understanding of the mechanisms controlling cell division may lead to understand the origins of CIN and its role in cancer development and to the development of novel therapeutic treatments for cancer pathologies.  PP D’Avino’s research interests focus on the study of the mechanisms and signalling pathways that govern cell division in eukaryotic cells and their de-regulation in cancer cells, with particular emphasis on how the activity of mitotic proteins and protein complexes are regulated by phosphorylation. In this talk, I will present our recent efforts to dissect the complex regulatory cross-talks between mitotic kinases and phosphatases during cytokinesis and to understand the origins and consequences of CIN in the development of oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

[1] McKenzie, C. and D’Avino P.P. (2016) Investigating cytokinesis failure as a strategy in cancer therapy. Oncotarget, 7(52):87323-87341 (doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.13556)
[2] D’Avino P.P. and Capalbo L. (2016) Regulation of midbody formation and function by mitotic kinases. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, 53:57-63.
[3] D’Avino P.P. (2017). Citron kinase – renaissance of a neglected mitotic kinase. Journal of Cell Science, 130(10): 1701-1708; doi: 10.1242/jcs.200253.

Pier Paolo D’Avino was born in Naples where I also obtained my laurea in Biology in May 1990 and my PhD in Molecular and Cellular Genetics in 1995 – both at the University Federico II. My PhD focused on the mechanisms of hormonal regulation of gene expression using Drosophila melanogaster as model system. In August 1995 he moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, USA to study how hormones regulate cell shape changes and tissue remodelling during metamorphosis in Drosophila, in the laboratory of Prof Carl Thummel, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Human Genetics of the University of Utah.He obtained an EMBO long term fellowship to move to Cambridge, UK, in January 1999 to join the group of Prof Michael Ashburner at the Department of Genetics of the University of Cambridge as an independent researcher.  In January 2001, I started working on the mechanics and regulation of cytokinesis in the group of Prof David Glover, always at the Department of Genetics. In 2004, after obtaining a BBSRC research grant, I was appointed Senior Research Associate and Director of Research, always at the Department of Genetics. In January 2009, he was appointed Lecturer in Cell Biology at the Department of Pathology of the University of Cambridge, where I currently teach Molecular and Cellular Biology of Cancer to Natural Sciences, Medical and Veterinary students and investigate the mechanisms and signalling pathways that govern cell division in eukaryotic cells and their de-regulation in cancer cells. Pier Paolo D’Avino is happily married and have two wonderful teenage daughters. He enjoy cooking, hiking, and running. In his – little – free time he enjoys reading books and watching movies/documentaries on science, science fiction, crime and ancient roman history. Finally, he follow sports: F1 motor racing, rugby and football. Has been a Ferrari “tifoso” since the age of 14 and, as all Neapolitans, was born to support the Napoli football team.

A fibrosarcoma cell undergoing cell division. Courtesy of M Kyle Hadden, University of Connecticut


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