Dr. Francesca Fontana, MD, PhD, joined the Department of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology as an Instructor in January, 2020.
From the standpoint of applications, Dr. Fontana’s work involves molecular imaging, nanotherapy, metabolomics, cellular molecular biology, and animal models of disease. By nosology, her research interests revolve mostly around bone oncology, including bone physiopathology, cancer-bone interactions, and cancer metabolism.
As an example of integration of medical and molecular biology knowledge, the use of metabolomics led to the first analysis by high resolution magic-angle spinning (HR-MAS) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) of surgical bone cancer samples, and the identification of plasma biomarkers of myeloma progression by chromatography/mass-spectrometry-based metabolic profiling. Cellular biology and metabolite fate tracking were used to characterize the metabolism of acetate in myeloma cells and provide preclinical proof of principle for the use of FDA-approved 11C-Acetate as a PET tracer in MM.
Work on the role of adhesion molecules in osteogenic cells and interactions in the cancer microenvironment using genetic models and molecular biology, contributed to the understanding of bone physiopathology and the cancer microenvironment. Notably, it also resulted in describing novel nanotherapeutic applications to target cancer-associated macrophages and drug-resistant multiple myeloma.
Dr. Fontana earned her medical degree in San Raffaele University (Milan, Italy), and certified as a member of the Italian order of physicians. She later obtained a PhD in molecular medicine, the branch of medicine devoted to develop rationally designed therapeutic and diagnostic tools based on molecular mechanisms of disease.
She reached Washington University in St Louis thanks to a fellowship from Fondazione Veronesi, and was hired to complete her postdoctoral training in the department of Internal Medicine.
In 2018 Dr. Fontana joined “C-TRAIN” (Washington University Consortium for Translational Research in Advanced Imaging and Nanomedicine), a large, technically diversified yet integrated research complex, directed by Dr. Gregory Lanza. In this highly interdisciplinary group, Dr. Fontana’s skills have melded with the application of nanomedicine technologies to selectively exploit cellular vulnerabilities, especially in the treatment of chemo-refractory cancer cells.