Dr. Marco Bisoffi is an associate professor of biological sciences in the Schmid College of Science and Technology at Chapman University. He earned his PhD in zoology from the University of Basel. Currently, he focuses his studies on molecular cancer research and underwent post-doctoral training in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Dr. Marco Bisoffi – Thinking Outside the Tumor
The term field cancerization denotes the presence of molecular aberrations in tissues that are adjacent to solid tumors. These aberrations can include genetic changes such as gene mutations, or biochemical changes, such as overexpression of growth factors and enzymes. It is important to note that these changes occur in phenotypically normal cells that are part of histologically normal tissues surrounding overt cancer lesions. In addition, these aberrations often affect entire tissue fields that are located centimeters away from the visible tumor margins, which, from a cellular point of view, is a large distance.
It is not entirely clear how such fields form. For example, the question of whether the tumor induces the field, or whether the field gives rise to the tumor, or both, remains unanswered. However, regardless of the answer, both researchers and clinicians alike agree that field cancerization has important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
In oncology, the histological assessment of tissues by trained pathologists remains the gold standard of cancer diagnosis and prognosis. Field cancerized tissues are typically recognized as normal, which for example can lead to false-negative biopsies and over-conservative surgical margins geared towards organ-sparing treatments. However, delayed treatment and/or left-behind field cancerized tissue may lead to tumor recurrences.
Our research deals with studying markers of prostate field cancerization, a type of cancer newly diagnosed in 200,000 and killing 30,000 men in the United States every year. In particular, we are investigating molecular mechanisms, or pathways, of prostate field cancerization in human cell models. We also test distinct mediators of field cancerization for their value as accurate diagnostic biomarkers in human prostate tissues.