!!Massimiliano Mazzone

Massimiliano Mazzone (b. 1979) obtained his PhD in 2007 at the University of Torino Medical School, Italy, where he developed with Prof. Comoglio recombinant inhibitors of Hepatocyte Growth Factor/c-Met pathway in tumor progression and metastasis and how hypoxia interferes in this signaling. In November 2006, he moved to the VIB, Belgium, where he completed his postdoctoral training in the department of Prof. Peter Carmeliet. Here, he studied how blood vessels regulate their shape and thus perfusion in case of oxygen shortage as it occurs in cancer. His work has been recently published in Cell. In March 2009, Massimiliano was promoted Group Leader at the Vesalius Research Center, Leuven (Belgium) and Assistant Professor at the Catholic University of Leuven. His research is mainly focusing in understanding how the tumor stroma, including macrophages and endothelial cells, affects cancer progression and metastasis. His research has been awarded with national and international prizes, and been published in high impact journals (such as Cancer Cell, Cell, Nature, Nature Genetics).

In contrast to our increasing understanding of how vessels sprout, little is known about how vessels regulate their shape and morphogenesis. Understanding the mechanisms underlying these processes is important, since vessel shape regulates its primary function, i.e. to supply oxygen to distant cells. In addition, in pathological conditions such as cancer and ischemic diseases, vessels are abnormal and dysfunctional. In a recent genetic study, we found evidence that a specific type of endothelial cells, which we named the “phalanx” cell, participates in the normalization of the endothelial cell layer, that allows vessels to readjust their shape, not numbers, to optimize oxygen supply when the latter is insufficient. Based on these findings, my research aims to define the genetic signature and molecular basis of endothelial phalanx cells, thus pioneering new therapeutic avenues of still unmet medical problems as cancer and ischemia.

* Mazzone M, Dettori D, Leite de Oliveira R, Loges S, Schmidt T, Jonckx B, Tian Y, Lanahan AA, Pollard P, Ruiz de Almodovar C, De Smet F, Vinckier S, Aragonés J, Luttun A, Wyns S, Debackere K, Jordan B, Pisacane A, Gallez B, Lampugnani MG, Dejana E, Simons M, Ratcliffe P, Maxwell P, and Carmeliet P, (2009) Heterozygous deficiency of PHD2 restores tumor oxygenation and inhibits metastasis via endothelial normalization. Cell 36 (5), 839-851. (IF 31.2 – Cited: 25)
* Carmeliet P, De Smet F, Loges S, and Mazzone M, (2009) Branching morphogenesis and antiangiogenesis candidates: tip cells lead the way. Invited review, Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology  6 (6), 315-326. (IF 9.1 – Cited: 2)