RUGGIERO DE MARIA
Born in Rome in 1964, he graduated in Medicine and Surgery in Catania in 1989 and in 1994 he obtained a degree in Endocrinology at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Palermo. From 1991 to 1996 he continued his scientific training at the Institute of General Patholog , University of Rome . From 1997 to 1999 he was a Visiting Professor at the University “Mount Sinai ” in New York and the University “Thomas Jefferson ” in Philadelphia. Since 1997 he is professor at the University of Palermo, Federico II University of Naples, University of Bari and the University of Catania. From 2006 to today he is an “Affiliate Full Professor” at the ” George Mason University” in Fairfax , Virginia. His research activity includes the presence in the Technical-Scientific Committees of the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC ) , the Foundation Carlo Besta Institute of Oncology , University of Padua and the Advanced Biotechnology Center of Genova. Moreover, since 2003 he holds the position of Scientific Director of the Foundation of the Oncology Institute of the Mediterranean.
Early studies in 1997 by De Maria on autoimmune thyroid disease have earned the cover of “Science” as they unveiled a mechanism through which the unexpected thyroid cells of patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis trigger the self-destruct mechanisms that result in the progressive loss of thyroid function. In the same year, again in “Science”, De Maria and his colleagues published the discovery of a new mediator of cell death, ganglioside GD3, which participates in apoptosis of neoplastic cells.
In 1996 Ruggero De Maria began working at the Institute of Health as a contract researcher in the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Molecular Medicine, with focus in the study of hematopoiesis. Together with his collaborators he explores the subtle balances that control the life and death of blood cells and can understand how it regulates the production of these cells in healthy individuals and in patients undergoing chemotherapy, research published in “Nature”, Blood and Cancer Research.
In recent years Ruggero De Maria receives funding from “Start Up” AIRC that allows him to deepen his research on the mechanisms of death in cancer cells. These were also the years in which the interest of De Maria arises for stem cells. In a first study of the nervous system on stem cells published in the Journal of “Experimental Medicine”, De Maria and his colleagues reveal why the stem cells of the nervous system are virtually immortal and resistant to noxious stimuli. In 2000 Ruggero De Maria became Director of Research in the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Molecular Medicine ISS, in 2004 he was appointed Director of the Department of Biotechnology and Hematologic Oncology and in 2008 he was appointed Director of the same Department.
When in 2003 a group of American scientists announced they had discovered stem cells in breast tumors, Ruggero De Maria dedicates to the study of cancer stem cells, having understood their importance for the development of new anticancer strategies. In 2007 he published the discovery of stem cells in colon cancer in “Nature” and a year later in “Cell Death & Differentiation identification of stem cells of lung cancer”, findings that could significantly affect future therapies for these cancers .
His most recent study, published in October 2008 in the journal Nature Medicine, is the possibility to identify and address the most aggressive prostate cancers, so far considered incurable. The discovery of De Maria that these tumors have lost two small genes called microRNA -15a and microRNA -16 by gaining more aggressiveness and ability to form metastases may lead to the development of new therapies for prostate cancer based on the administration of the two missing genes.
He is author of numerous publications in international journals, among which more than ten publications in the journal “Science” and the magazines of the group “Nature”. Among these studies are reports of the discovery of mechanisms responsible for the production of blood cells, programmed cell death, pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases and the aggressiveness of metastatic tumors of the prostate. Over the past ten years his scientific activity has been prevalent in the field of stem cells and oncology. In this context, the research coordinated by prof. De Maria have revealed the mechanisms that allow the survival of neural stem cells during inflammatory disease and the existence of stem cell cancers of the colon and lung. Furthermore, its research has demonstrated the chemo resistance of stem cells of brain tumors and the ability to leverage the analysis of stem cells of glioma to obtain more reliable prognostic indications.
The discovery of cancer stem cells is a powerful tool to improve cancer therapy. Currently, the major focus of prof. De Maria is focused on the treatment of tumors with poor prognosis and to define the most effective biomarkers for the best use of new molecular therapies.
In October 3, decree of September 21, 2011 prof. Ruggero De Maria Marchiano has been appointed for a period of five years, Scientific Director of the National Cancer Institute ” Regina Elena “, belonging to the IRCCS public law “Hospital Physiotherapeutics Institutes – IFO ” in Rome, one of the cornerstone for Italy where the research goes hand in hand with the treatment of cancer.
He was trained as a virologist at the Max-Planck-Institute in Germany and at the University of California in Berkeley. His work (340+ publications) deals with retroviral replication and genetics, with viral and cellular oncogenes and with the identification of novel inhibitors of oncoproteins. He has made groundbreaking contributions to our knowledge of the cellular and molecular biology and to the genetics of retroviral infections, including the interaction between viral and cellular receptors, genetic recombination between retroviruses, and endogenous retroviral genomes. His discovery of the first temperature-sensitive mutant of Rous sarcoma virus provided definitive proof for the existence of oncogenes. His work on the structure of retroviral RNA identified a specific sequence responsible for oncogenic transformation, now known as the src oncogene. This work led directly to the discovery of the cellular origin of viral oncogenes. Vogt’s studies of diverse retroviruses resulted in the discovery of several novel oncogenes that have become household words in cellular signaling and are of key importance in human cancer: myc, jun and PI 3-kinase. His recent work involves collaborations with chemists at the Scripps Research Institute in a quest for small molecule regulators of cancer targets. Peter Vogt is currently Professor at The Scripps Research Institute.