Outreaching epigenetics in melanoma at University of Helsinki

It was a great pleasure for me to represent MELGEN ESRs at the in Helsinki this year.
This is an organized series arranged by the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland
 (FIMM) and the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG’s joint EU-LIFE) to bridge clinical and basic/translational research. It also aims to provide examples of how investigators are working together towards a better understanding of the pathophysiology of melanoma and of the available options for patients’ treatment and care.

This represented the 6th edition and focused on how epigenetics research can be leveraged to improve our understanding of health and disease. As one of the main interests of my PhD project (ESR10) involves such a hot topic, I decided to take this extremely precious opportunity and give an oral speed talk during the symposium in front of a big audience, among which were some of the major experts of the field (find the program here).

Luciano di Croce (Twitter), a great Italian group leader at CRG and ICREA, and research professor based in Barcelona, set the basics for a better understanding of what epigenetics is and how the study of epigenetics can enable precision medicine. Then, research-focused talks were given by clinical and translational researchers, exploring detailed examples of discovery, development, and application in areas, such as:
– Epigenomics, which is the study of the complete set of DNA epigenetic modifications, known as the epigenome.
– Cell differentiation in disease, and importance of epigenetics as a driver aside from mutations.
– Epigenetic modifiers as drug targets, and examples of clinically successful medicines long approved by FDA (read more here).

The talks were of extremely high quality, inspiring and interesting from different points of view.
There was a talk particularly interesting for me, named “From new insights into melanoma biology to improved targeted therapies” given by Jean-Christophe Marine, a Belgian molecular biologist who is a researcher at the Center of Human Genetics (CME) Ku-Leuven and head of the VIB Laboratory of Molecular Cancer Biology. His outstanding presentation focused on epigenetic-mediated transit of melanoma cells in two distinct transcriptional states, that leads in turn to tolerance to drug treatment and acquired resistance states against current effective therapies.

J-C Marine; Melanoma transcriptional cell state transit.

I was extremely fascinated by hearing how much importance has being given to epigenetic modulation in melanoma in the past few years, as a new emerging field to be widely explored (read more here). Naturally, knowing this excited me even more about my ongoing research project.

I was glad to be part of such an intriguing symposium, and above all to have the chance of networking with experienced professors.



The symposium ended with a public engagement event in which the future societal applications of epigenetics research were the main topic. During this period, I had the opportunity to discuss my research and receive useful suggestions and opinions for follow-ups.

Overall, this was the first experience I had on presenting my work alone abroad, without the physical support (but always with the moral one) of my lab group. I found this outreach experience very helpful and extremely fruitful to enhance my confidence at an international level, as well as to meet great people I will surely keep in touch with in my scientific career. I am looking forward to the next event.


P.S. I would like to warmly suggest Helsinki as a pretty destination among Scandinavian cities, as it offers a wide range of experiences throughout the year for all ages.











Written by:
Adriana Sanna, ESR10

Lund University