Giorgio Seano Tackles Brain Tumor Resistance

Over 95% of patients undergoing brain tumor treatment end up relapsing due to the onset of drug resistance. A problem that researcher Giorgio Seano has decided to tackle. His theory is that the vascular network has a major role to play. Thanks to the Atip-Avenir Program and European Research Council (ERC) funding, he wants to elucidate these mechanisms with one objective in mind: to develop new and more effective treatments for patients.

Portrait Giorgio Seano, chef de l'équipe laboratoire microenvironnement tumoral. © Pedro Lombardi / Institut Curie
Giorgio Seano, Head of the Tumor Microenvironment Laboratory team - © Pedro Lombardi/Institut Curie

Resistance to brain tumor treatments represents a serious threat. Whether primary tumors – such as glioblastomas, or brain metastases occurring in patients with melanoma, lung or breast cancer, over 95% of patients relapse due to the onset of this resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Giorgio Seano has made it his mission to address this. This young Inserm researcher, team leader at Institut Curie, wants to discover the mechanisms behind his phenomenon in order to develop new therapies.

He is currently focusing on the role of the vascular system within tumors, and particularly what is happening in the perivascular niches – which are made up of blood vessels – and their microenvironment. Brain tumors are among the most densely vascularized tumors, and his previous research has shown that cancer cells can adhere to the vessel walls in order to migrate and invade the surrounding tissue. An ability that could give them a major advantage when it comes to evading treatments. To explore this phenomenon, Giorgio Seano is working not just in vitro but also in vivo thanks to intravital microscopy. This technique is used to visualize tumor cell behavior in response to treatments, directly in the brains of live animals, dynamically and over several days. The researcher also uses patient biopsies in order to test therapeutic approaches.

The Atip-Avenir program as springboard

The career of Giorgio Seano so far has been impressive. After a PhD in tumor vasculature at the Candiolo Cancer Institute (Turin, Italy), he joined the Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA) in 2012. During his five years there, he described the phenomenon of cancer cell migration along the blood vessels in the brain, a phenomenon known as vascular co-option. He also mastered the intravital imaging technique. With many publications and communications under his belt and already the recipient of various prestigious prizes and grants, his next step was France. In 2017, he joined Institut Curie as a team leader and beneficiary of the ANR Young Researcher program as well as internal and European grants (PIC3 grant and IC-3i PhD program, respectively) to set up his project. Nevertheless, other sources of funding were needed if he was to complete his project, and so he applied for and was accepted to the Inserm and CNRS Atip-Avenir program. The funding granted for a minimum three-year period meant that he could consolidate his team, now comprising seven people – doctors, engineers and post-docs, and really get started. And that was without counting the “Holy Grail” that he has recently achieved: an ERC Starting Grant of 1.5 million euros over five years. Suffice it to say that Giorgio Seano is now free to devote himself fully to his research over the years to come.

Giorgio Seano is currently the Head of the Tumor Microenvironment Laboratory team in the Biology & Chemistry of Radiations, Cell Signaling and Cancer domain (unit 1021 Inserm/CNRS/Université Paris 11/Institut Curie, Orsay).