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Valaria Quaranta

Valaria Quaranta graduated in Biological Sciences at the University of Parma (Italy), and subsequently proceeded with a two years Master degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics. She is keen to pursue cancer research to further understand cancer and develop treatments for thousands of people.

The NWCR funded MRes/PhD Programme has offered Valeria an innovative and exciting cancer research training environment at the University of Liverpool. She is currently undertaking research in the field of pancreatic cancer and tumour immunology, supervised by Dr Michael Schmid.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an aggressive malignant disease of the exocrine pancreas that affects approximately 7000 people every year in the UK and carries a dire prognosis for which novel therapeutic strategies are urgently needed. Although it was originally thought that our immune cells would kill cancer cells, recent evidence suggests that cancer cells can “hijack” certain immune cell functions and use our immune cells to their own benefit. For example, tumour infiltrating immune cells, specifically leukocytes (also known as “white blood cells”) secrete high amounts of factors that aid the cancer cells to proliferate, survive, and metastasize. In fact, clinical studies have shown a correlation between abundance of leukocytes and poor prognosis. Thus, it is of upmost importance to
better understand the tumour promoting functions of our immune cells.

Valeria’s research projects aims to identify and target tumour promoting functions of immune cells in pancreatic cancer. Findings obtained from these studies might open new avenues to fight pancreatic cancer.