Boccellato group | Infection, immunity and tumourigenesis
Our group is interested in oncogenic pathogens and in understanding their contribution to carcinogenesis. Patients infected with those pathogens have a higher chance of developing cancer, but the malignancy arises many years after the initial infection event. Cancer may develop as a result of a long battle between the pathogen that persists, hides and damages the tissue, and the host that attacks the pathogen and continuously repairs the damage caused by the infection. The epithelia of our body are strong defensive barriers that protect against infections. When an infection damages the tissue, this starts a regenerative program to maintain barrier integrity. However, the epithelium also experiences genomic instability as a result of the infection. We believe that regeneration and DNA damage are two crucial aspects of carcinogenesis. We use innovative tissue culture systems of human primary cells to re-build the infection niche in vitro and to understand the long term effect of infection on epithelial cells.