Panagiotis Baliakas – Molecular genetics of hematological malignancies

Our research  focuses on genetic characterisation of the cancer forms chronic lymphocytic leukemia and myeloid neoplasms. The goal is to identify strategies to evaluate prognosis, disease course and risk for treatment resistance, which can form the basis for choice of therapy.

Hematological malignancies (HMs) are cancers in the blood, bone marrow or lymph tissues. They occur in several forms such as leukemia and lymphoma and belong to the most common deadly cancer types.

HMs are a typical example where the understanding of the biological mechanisms responsible for disease development and evolution has been translated into development of highly effective targeted therapies, already incorporated in every clinical practice. Nevertheless, the majority of hematological malignancies demonstrate remarkable clinicobiological heterogeneity which makes the task of applying the right treatment to the right patient extremely challenging.

The main goal of our research program is to genetically characterize HMs with the aim to:
1) unravel the most relevant biological pathways for the growth and survival of the malignant cells.
2) optimize the classification of HMs in an effort to identify subgroups of patients with distinct clinicobiological profiles, setting the grounds for precision medicine.

Our research focuses on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and myeloid neoplasms (MNs).

CLL patients can be classified in subgroups

CLL is the most common hematological malignancy amongst elderly in the west. In contrast to the majority of HMs, up to 85 % of newly diagnosed CLL patients do not require immediate treatment. However, 60 % of the patients will need treatment at some point during the disease course.

Over the years, a great number of host- and tumour-related features with prognostic and/or predictive value have been identified. Our group has been pivotal in evaluating the clinical significance of these markers, assisting in the stratification of patients into subgroups with distinct clinical course and response to treatment.

Genetic characterisation of myeloid neoplasms

MNs are a large number of entities where the somatic genomic background is of vital importance not only for diagnosis but also for stratification, treatment choice and follow-up policy.

We focus on genomic characterization of MNs, with the attempt to provide robust prognostic and predictive algorithms and to understand the mechanisms associated with refractoriness to standard treatment. One of our main interests is to elucidate the genomic landscape of MNs with germline predisposition.


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