Ilaria Rignanese

PhD Student Fellow

Research Lines

Genomic Science




Campus IFOM-IEO, Via Adamello, 16, 20139, MI

Social profiles

instagram facebook



10/2015 - 01/2018 Master’s Degree “Genetics and Molecular Biology” (110/110 cum laude), Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

10/2011 - 12/2015 Bachelor’s Degree “Biological Sciences” (108/110), Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

09/2006 - 07/2011 Scientific High School (98/100), Liceo Scientifico “G.T.Giordani” Monte Sant’Angelo (FG), Italy


02/2019-present PhD student fellow, IIT, CGS@SEMM, Milan, Italy 

Project: Role of non-coding RNAs in breast cancer and drug resistance mechanisms

10/2015-01/2018 Trainee, Dep. of Biology and Biotechnologies “Charles Darwin”, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy 

Project: Effects mediated by selective agonists of muscarinic receptor M2 in human endothelial cells: implications for tumor angiogenesis

01/2016-01/2017 Senior tutor, Dep. of Biology and Biotechnologies “Charles Darwin”, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy

Managing practical exercises for genetics, human physiology and developmental biology courses as supervisor of Bachelor’s students


Transcriptional Response associated to Chemoresistance in Human Breast Cancer

Lay Summary

Breast cancer is a widespread cancer type, with different subtypes and various degrees of morbidity. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is considered to be the most aggressive subtype, mainly due to the absence of a targeted therapy. TNBC standard care is chemotherapy, which is unfortunately poorly effective in some cases. The exact mechanisms behind chemoresistance and how cancer cells can adapt to therapy are still unknown. In our lab, we investigate the mechanisms of chemoresistance with the aim of fighting them. My project, in particular, employs cellular models to reproduce chemo-adaptation in vitro and modern genomics to investigate cancer evolution.


Our results will give a fundamental contribution to the better understanding of how cancer cells become tolerant to drug treatments and to the improvement of standard therapies efficacy.

Project Description

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive breast cancer subtype. It comprises 15% of cases and is associated with a very poor prognosis in terms of risk of recurrence and distant metastasis. Compared to other cancer types, TNBC lacks a targeted therapy and can only be treated with chemotherapy, which unfortunately gives a poor outcome in many patients. TNBC aggressive behavior is led by its intrinsic heterogeneity and its ability to adapt to chemotherapy.

Our lab mainly aims at identifying the alterations associated with TNBC chemo-adaptation at different levels (transcriptional, epigenetic, metabolic) and at investigating the contribution of non-coding RNAs to this altered regulatory landscape.

To this purpose, we plan to challenge multiple TNBC cell lines with different chemo-drugs (i.e. taxanes, anthracyclines, alkylating agents) and investigate how they can tolerate and even overcome different chemo-drug treatments. We will employ cellular assays already established in our laboratory (i.e. 3D culture, migration assay) and metabolic assays to characterize the TNBC cells that adapt to chemodrugs. Furthermore, we will apply cutting-edge genomic technologies (i.e. scRNA seq, scATAC) to identify common molecular determinants in the adaptive response.

The still unanswered questions we want to address are: which TNBC cell line can be used as a suitable model for chemoresistance? What are the mechanisms responsible for adaptation and can they be modulated therapeutically?


Project figure