Researcher Spotlight

Researcher Spotlight: Elena Battistello, PhD

New York University School of Medicine

Peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) is an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) derived from the malignant transformation of blood cells called T-lymphocytes. Currently, patients diagnosed with PTCL have limited treatment options and poor prognosis, highlighting the need for a better understanding of PTCL
pathogenesis to foster the design of novel therapeutic approaches.

Within the T-lymphocyte nucleus, the DNA is wrapped around specific proteins called histones, forming a highly organized 3D structure called chromatin. Alterations of the spatial chromatin organization are found in different tumor types and have played a role in malignant transformation and tumor progression. Recent studies in PTCL have identified mutations in genes contributing to the establishment of the chromatin structure, suggesting a function of the chromatin rewiring on tumor progression. Drugs targeting those regulators have shown promising efficacy in PTCL, further indicating that the chromatin landscape might be necessary for controlling PTCL pathogenesis.

For her LRF research project, Dr. Battistello will investigate PTCL patient samples’ chromatin architecture and relate it to their genetic background and cellular phenotype. She aims to identify chromatin regions that may be critical for PTCL survival and functionally validate their importance using large-scale gene-editing approaches. “Overall, this study will expand our understanding of the role of the chromatin landscape on oncogene activation in T-cell lymphoma pathogenesis, will identify new regulators of tumor progression and will help design better therapeutic strategies to improve clinical outcomes,” Dr. Battistello explains.

Dr. Battistello is a Postdoctoral Fellow at New York University School of Medicine in New York. She received her PhD from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her passion for lymphoma research sparked from her interest in the plasticity of the hematological system. “I was fascinated by how these same cells that protect us from pathogens can, in turn, transform and become a tumor themselves,” she recalls. In the future, Dr. Battistello hopes to become
an independent investigator leading a research group focused on the epigenetic regulation of hematological malignancies and the interaction of the tumor cells with other components of the immune system. “The willingness to advance our scientific knowledge and have an impact on
patients’ lives is what drives my scientific commitment,” she says