Dr. Gorrini completed the first stages of her education, including University degree, PhD and first postdoctoral experience, in Italy. In those years, she acquired a strong knowledge in cancer biology by studying the connection between DNA damage response pathways and oncogene-driven signalling in supporting malignant transformation. In 2007, Dr. Gorrini was awarded FIRC and EMBO international fellowships that allowed her to join the team of Dr. Tak Mak in Toronto as a senior postdoctoral fellow. Her project focused on the critical functions of the tumour suppressor BRCA1 in breast tumorigenesis. In 2015, Dr. Gorrini was appointed Junior Investigator in the Campbell Family Breast Cancer Institute at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. She was recently awarded the prestigious Career Catalyst Research Grant by Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
The regulation of redox homeostasis is fundamental to maintaining normal cellular functions and ensuring cell survival. Oxidative stress is derived from an imbalance between the generation and elimination of reactive oxygen species (ROS). This ROS production is offset by detoxifying “antioxidant” programs that decrease ROS or neutralize their effects. Cancer cells routinely have higher ROS levels than normal cells as a consequence of alterations in several signalling pathways that affect cellular metabolism. Cancer metabolic alterations have also the ability to influence the communication of the tumor cells with nearby immune cells by influencing the nutrient status of the surrounding tumor microenvironment.
Dr. Chiara Gorrini's research is focused on a better understanding of the metabolic alterations associated with the initiation, progression and treatment of breast cancer, specifically Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC). Dr. Gorrini’s team have found that among all different tumor types, Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is particularly characterized by elevated oxidative stress due to their metabolic and genetic alterations. Most recently, Dr Gorrini’s discoveries have highlighted a link between cancer-associated oxidative stress (CAOS) and tumour microenviroment in that CAOS defines the functional and phenotypic characteristic of immune cells surrounding the tumour. A deeper analysis of the communication between cancer cells and the immune system is crucial for the application of immunotherapy that is still an open avenue of investigation in TNBC.
Another aspect of Dr. Gorrini’s research is the identification of CAOS sensors that could represent novel tumour vulnerabilities in TNBC. In this context, her team is exploring the role of the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor as CAOS sensor in TNBC by a multidisciplinary approach including structural biology, CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, small compound screens and use of mouse genetic models.