Biomedical Research Foundation Academy Of AthensAcademy Of Athens
News :Themis Alissafi awarded prestigious 2020 ERC Starting Grant

Themis Alissafi, BRFAA Postdoctoral Researcher in Panayotis Verginis’ lab, has received esteemed 2020 ERC Starting Grant and has been awarded funding for her research project titled, “A multi-parametric Regulatory T cell Atlas in cancer to predict immunotherapy response, adverse autoimmune events and to identify novel therapeutic targets” (REGSIGN).

Dr. Alissafi is one of a diverse group of grantees from 40 different nations.  ERC Starting Grants are worth a total of €677 million.  The funding will help early-career scientists and scholars, like Dr. Alissafi, build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines.  The grants are part of the EU’s Research and Innovation program, Horizon 2020.


Project Overview

Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment. However, more than half of treated patients do not show beneficial clinical outcomes whereas responses are often accompanied by severe autoimmune side effects. Predictive biomarkers of clinical response and novel approaches to master anti-tumor immunity while keeping in check autoimmune responses are very important challenges in oncology that can open the path to effective treatment of cancer.

It is the ambition of REGSIGN to answer fundamental research questions and provide diagnostic tools to improve the quality of care for cancer patients. RegSign through multi-parametric single-cell analysis will set the stage for exploring novel concepts in cancer, such as the role of circulating regulatory T cells, that represent one of the main obstacles for effective immunotherapies, to serve as a “liquid” biopsy for predicting response to treatment and development of autoimmune manifestations. Furthermore, this project will generate innovative animal models, that will allow the development and testing of new immunotherapeutic targets and design of personalized therapy.  Finally, RegSign will tackle with a pioneering concept of modulating Treg metabolism to adjuvant immune system to fight cancer and simultaneously keep in track hazardous attacks on self tissue, that will generate breakthroughs in management of immunotherapy-induced autoimmune side effects.