Head and neck tumors (HNT) are among the most common types of cancer worldwide, with an estimated 300.000 annual deaths. Distinct classes of risk factors (e.g. tobacco and alcohol abuse versus Human Papilomavirus (HPV) persistent infection) are associated with different tumor subsets that share molecular and pathological characteristics. However, lack of specific therapies renders a poor clinical outcome with less than 50% survival rate. By taking advantage of Phage Display technology, here we propose the isolation of HNT-specific peptides with the capacity to distinguish between HPV-positive and negative tumors and those from normal tissues. After performing both in vitro and in situ phage panning, the resulting peptides should be evaluated in respect to their: i. diagnostic value, through the screening of a large tumor bank collection; ii. biological activity on transformed cell lines, by assessing cellular growth, invasivity and tumorigenicity; iii. capability of cellular internalization. Their molecular targets should also be identified through one of the following strategies: bioinformatic analysis, biochemistry assays or high throughput screenings. This project should significantly contribute to the identification of potentially relevant molecules for the therapy/diagnosis of head and neck tumors.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: