Researcher has invented and developed a way to isolate exosomes from tumor tissue, lands $6M grant

She has invented and developed a way to isolate exosomes from tumor tissue. Rossella Crescitelli has been awarded SEK 6 million from the Swedish Research Council to continue her research on the role of these messenger-carrying nanoparticles in the growth and spread of cancer.

Her name appeared among 38 others from the University of Gothenburg on the Swedish Research Council’s list of researchers who receive grants in medicine and health.

On Rossella Crescitelli’s line was written “Starting grant” and SEK 6,000,000.

“I couldn’t believe it. But after receiving so many congratulations from people around me, I have now finally realized how big this opportunity is. I have to confess that the first reaction was of shock, with a great deal of happiness but I was also a little scared,” says Rossella Crescitelli.

Studying the tumor microenvironment

What is the goal of the project for which you are now receiving a four-year starting grant?
“To study the role of extracellular vesicles, also called exosomes, in cancer development. Exosomes are nanoparticles that are released by all types of cells and act as a communication system between them. It is known that cancer cells release exosomes that contribute to the metastatic spreading of tumors, but the details are largely unknown.”

What are your plans now, and what clinical benefits do you anticipate?
“My focus is to investigate the effect of exosomes released by cancer cells on the surrounding cells, the tumor microenvironment, and I will try to shed light on the mechanisms involved in cancer growth and progression. This has potential to aid in future development of both diagnostics and therapies for various types of cancer.”

Image from Rossella Crescitellis 3D reconstruction of a piece of uveal melanoma metastasis in liver. In the extracellular space (outside the cells) you can see the red-marked exosomes released from the cancer cells. Photo: Rossella Criscitelli

A method she is unique in

How do you examine particles that are about 5,000 times smaller than a millimeter?
“One way is to isolate exosomes directly from tumor tissue. This has not been possible until recently when I invented and developed a new method to isolate these particles from tumor tissue. In this project, I will apply my method to surgically removed metastases from melanoma patients,” Rossella Crescitelli says and adds:

“I am also developing a method where we can culture thin slices of both cancer and healthy tissue, and study what effect exosomes from different cancer cells have on these tissues using sophisticated genetic analysis as well as high-resolution microscopy.”

In addition to the support from colleagues and mentors you’ve mentioned, what is it that allows you to succeed?
“The strength of this project is the possibility for me to continue within the same translational research network, with access to clinical samples from the hospital where I more or less daily receive tissue and blood samples. I will then process and isolate exosomes from the tissues, where the entire process requires two working days. Like I have done most of my research career so far, I will dedicate a large part of my time to laboratory work. I can’t wait to get started.”

SourceUniversity of Gothenburg

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