Maria Pirra Piscazzi

PhD Student
PhD student

Research Lines

Genomic Science





  • 2019: 2-year Master’s degree in Molecular Biotechnology, University of Turin, Turin (Italy).
  • 2016: 3-year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, University of Bari “Aldo Moro”, Bari (Italy).
  • 2011: 5-year Secondary School specializing in Languages, “Don Lorenzo Milani” School, Acquaviva Delle Fonti (BA) (Italy).

Working Experience

  • June 2020 – present: Research Fellow in Dr. Nicassio’s laboratory. Center for Genomic Science of IIT@SEMM>, Milano (Italy)

Research topic: Study of the role of lncRNAs in chemoadaptation in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) models.

  • March 2019 – October 2019: Master Internship in Dr. F. Novelli’s laboratory of Tumor Immunology, Center for Experimental Research and Medical studies (CeRMS), Turin, (Italy).

Research topic: Study of tumor microenvironment’s impact in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDA) progression.

  • March 2017 – December 2018: Master’s degree internship in Dr. P.M. Comoglio’s laboratory of Molecular Therapeutic and Exploratory Research, IRCCS Candiolo Cancer Institute, Candiolo, Turin, Italy.

Research topic: Study of a new mechanism of resistance to targeted monotherapy in a patient with Cancers of Unknown Primary Site (CUPs)

  • September 2015 – December 2016: Bachelor’s degree internship in the laboratory of Human Anatomy and Histology, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neuroscience and Sense Organs, Bari (Italy) – Supervisors: Dr. Giacomina Brunetti.

Research topic: Study of the role of LIGHT in the adipogenesis


Project Title: Noncoding RNA Mechanisms involved in transcriptional and epigenetic plasticity of cancer cells

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer tumor and is characterized by the lack of three main biomarkers: estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Neoadjuvant-chemotherapy is the only effective treatment. Unfortunately, TNBC patients often exhibit relapse, developing drug resistance, and metastases. To identify new targets that can be used in the personalized treatment of TNBC, our lab is investigating the role played by some of the long (lncRNAs) and short (microRNAs) regulatory non-coding RNAs that have recently emerged as key components in adaptation pathways.

My project, in particular, is aimed at investigating the mechanisms presided by those noncoding RNAs that are involved in the adaptive response and transcriptional reprogramming of breast cancer cells.

In particular, I am focusing on the high-resolution characterization of the function and the mechanism of one promising lncRNA candidate, which has stood out as extremely relevant in the modulation of the tumour response to chemotherapy. In particular, I am working on modulating the expression levels of this lncRNA (lncRNA-PR) in different TNBC cell lines through different approaches, such as short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs), and genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9 interfering (KRAB) in order to evaluate  lncRNA-PR contribution to in vitro and in vivo cancer phenotypes, such as tumor growth and metastatic spread. Results collected from these experiments will allow us to evaluate the relevance of lncRNA-PR in response to chemodrugs and its potential as a new drug when combined with chemotherapy.

In parallel, I will also be investigating the role of the Target-induced-miRNA-degradation (TDMD) mechanism, a novel molecular mechanism in control of microRNA function [Ghini, 2018 Nat Comm], and its implication on the reprogramming of breast cancer cells that characterizes adaptation to chemotherapy, inter-conversion of Mammary Stem Cell (MaSC)-like to more differentiated cells, or epithelial-to-mesenchymal (EMT) transition.

This project is supported by an AIRC Investigator Grant to Dr. Nicassio