Laboratory of Experimental Oncology

Musculoskeletal Sarcoma Center - Logo

The Laboratory of Experimental Oncology (Head: Katia Scotlandi, Biologist) is part of the Specialist Orthopedic-Traumatological Pathologies Department and operates within the Musculoskeletal Sarcoma Center of the Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute. The Laboratory is part of the European Reference Network for rare or low prevalence complex diseases - Adult Cancer (ERN EURACAN).

The research activities of all the operational units of the Laboratory of Experimental Oncology are aimed at greater knowledge of the pathogenetic mechanisms that underlie the onset and progression of musculoskeletal tumors, in order to obtain useful information to optimize clinical treatments in patients suffering from bone or soft parts tumors. The Laboratory of Experimental Oncology carries out its activity in close collaboration with the Pathology Service and with the clinical realities of the Institute with a prevalent oncological address, as well as with the Laboratory of Immunology and Biology of Metastases, Headquarters of Cancerology, Department of Specialized, Diagnostic and Experimental Medicine - DIMES, University of Bologna (Head: Prof. PL Lollini) for what concerns preclinical studies in vivo.

Biologist Katia Scotlandi is co-coordinator of the Oncological Research Line of the Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute.

In addition to the structured staff, trainees (research doctorates, scholarship holders) and students of the University of Bologna attend the Laboratory of Experimental Oncology for the completion of their studies and specializations.

Scientific activity

Over the years the laboratory has specialized in translational research of musculoskeletal sarcomas and in the development of new biomolecular approaches for the optimization of diagnostic and therapeutic pathways.

Sarcomas are a very heterogeneous group of mesenchymal neoplasms involving connective tissues, such as muscles, adipose tissue, joints, bones, blood vessels. Over 60 different types of sarcoma are recognized, divided into two macro categories: bone sarcomas and soft tissue sarcomas. Globally, sarcomas are rare neoplasms: they represent about 1% of adult tumors and 15% of pediatric tumors. The study and treatment of these diseases require dedicated Institutes with specific expertise. If, on the one hand, there is a need to activate more accurate diagnostic-prognostic pathways for patients affected by these pathologies, on the other there is the need to have therapeutic strategies taking into account the fact that the term sarcoma actually identifies many entities, biologically and clinically different, for which it is essential to develop therapeutic approaches that are as specific as possible and tailored to the individual genetic and histological characteristics.

The activity of the Laboratory of Experimental Oncology is divided into three different aspects:

  1. to favor the molecular characterization of the different histotypes of sarcoma, using molecular profiling techniques and genomics, transcriptomics and epigenomics of latest generation
  2. to optimize the identification of critical targets for disease progression, useful for the development of targeted therapies
  3. to understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms responsible for resistance to conventional chemotherapy, with reference to osteosarcoma, and to evaluate the preclinical efficacy of new anticancer agents capable of overcoming or circumventing the aforementioned pharmacoresistance mechanisms.

Figura modificata da Cells. 2020 Apr 14;9(4). Genomics and Therapeutic Vulnerabilities of Primary Bone Tumors. Scotlandi K, Hattinger CM, Pellegrini E, Gambarotti M, Serra M

Activities of excellence

The research activity has gained recognition in the numerous research projects financed both nationally and internationally.

The currently active projects are:

European Union

  • TRANSCAN-2: “Targeting Of Resistance in PEDiatric Oncology (TORPEDO)”. Coordinator: Prof. S.M. Pfister (Heidelberg, Germania); PI IOR: K. Scotlandi (2016-2018)
  • IMI2: “ITCC Pediatric Preclinical Poc Platform (ITCC-P4)”. Coordinator: Prof. S.M. Pfister (Heidelberg, Germania); PI IOR: K. Scotlandi (2017-2021)
  • ERA-NET/TRANSCAN: “Harnessing BRCAness as therapeutic target in HR pediatric solid tumors (BRCAddict)”. Coordinator: Prof. S.M. Pfister (Heidelberg, Germania); PI IOR: Dr. M. Serra; Co-PI IOR: K. Scotlandi (2019-2022)
  • HORIZON 2020: “Sarcoma as model to imporve diagnosis and clinical care of rare tumors through a European and Latin American multidisciplinary network (SELNET)”. Coordinator: Dr. JM. Broto (Seville, Spain); PI IOR:  K. Scotlandi (2019-2023).

Italian Ministry of Health

  • “IGF2BPs (insulin-like growth factor 2 binding proteins) as novel biomarker of Ewing sarcoma progression: diagnostic and therapeutic implications”. PI: K. Scotlandi, Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute (2018-2020)
  • “Efficacy assessment of new targeted combination therapies for musculoskeletal sarcomas as the basis for tailoring patients' treatment”. PI: Dr. Massimo Serra, Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute (2018-2021).

Italian Association for Cancer Research

  • “CD99 at the interface between bone sarcoma and the immune microenvironment: an opportunity for therapy”. PI: K. Scotlandi, Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute (2017-2020)
  •  “Toward tailored treatments for osteosarcoma through validation of pharmacogenomic markers”. PI: Massimo Serra, Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute (2019-2023)
  • “Accelerating biomarkers and targeted therapy development in metastatic Ewing sarcomas: focus on tumor cell plasticity”. PI: K. Scotlandi, Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute (2020-2025).

The Laboratory of Experimental Oncology is also an active part of the work of Alliance Against Cancer (ACC), the largest Italian oncology research organization, founded in 2002 by the Ministry of Health with the mission of promoting networking among oncologists, with clinical and translational research as its main aims. The laboratory is part of the Sarcoma Working Group (the group was coordinated by K. Scotlandi from 2017 to 2019) and the Genomics Working Group.

Globally, the Laboratory is proposed as a reference center for:

  • the definition of guidelines for the planning and implementation of innovative treatment protocols for the care of patients with musculoskeletal sarcoma, currently not responsive to conventional drugs
  • the definition of guidelines for the identification of new diagnostic and prognostic parameters in tissue and plasma samples of patients with sarcoma.
Content updated 08/06/2020 - 16:03
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