Francesco Nicassio

Researcher - Center Coordinator

Research Lines

Genomic Science




c/o Campus IFOM-IEO via Adamello, 16



PhD degree in Life Science
Open University (UK) at the Ist. Europeo di Oncologia - Milan

POSTGEN: post-genomic technologies integration systems
IFOM Fondazione Istituto FIRC di Oncologia Molecolare - Milan

B.Sc. degree (5-year) in Biology (molecular biology specialization)
Università di Bari - Bari

High-school diploma
Liceo Classico "O. Flacco" - Bari

Work Experience

Team Leader - Center for genomic science of IIT@SEMM (Milan) - Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia

Scientist - Molecular Medicine for Care Program- Dept. Experimental Oncology - (Milan) - IEO, European Institute of Oncology

Post-doctoral Fellow - IFOM, Firc-Institute for Molecular Oncology (Milan)

PhD student - IFOM, Firc-Institute for Molecular Oncology (Milan)

Research Fellow - Dept. Experimental Oncology - IEO, European Institute of Oncology (Milan)


Our lab focuses on functional analysis of microRNA and non-coding RNAs in development and cancer. Our current aims are:

Identification of miRNAs and non-coding RNAs in the control of stemness, cell cycle and differentiation.We are investigating the transcriptional regulation of miRNAs and how miRNA and mRNAs programs are integrated in the control of a physiological (i.e. stemness and differentiation) or pathological processes (i.e. oncogene-induced transformation). This will ultimately leads to the identification of key targets and mechanisms for cancer therapeutics. These studies will be also extended to the analysis of other non-coding RNAs and the investigation of their role in the control of gene expression programs.

Myc-depedent microRNAs in the transcriptional control of quiescence and proliferation. We aim at defining the effect of multiple miRNAs within the transcriptional framework that control cellular quiescence. In particular, we focus on Myc, a transcriptional factor widely known either as key controller of cell- cycle and quiescence and as master regulator of miRNA expression. Indeed, a core of specific genes that explain Myc effect in cell-cycle control is still missing, while a growing body of evidence suggests a key role for miRNAs in the control of proliferation and cell-cycle.

MicroRNAs and non-coding RNAs as biomarkers for cancer and disease.
MicroRNAs are promising biomarkers due to their high tissue specificity and remarkable stability even in biological fluids (i.e. serum and plasma), where they provide a valuable source of circulating biomarkers for disease. We are interested in the development of miRNA signature for cancer risk prediction, early diagnosis, predict response to therapy and monitor disease recurrence. These studies will be also extended to the analysis of other non-coding RNAs  as potential biomarkers for disease.

Selected Publications

  1. Bonapace IM, Latella L, Papait R, Nicassio F, Sacco A, Muto M, Crescenzi M, Di Fiore PP. “Np95 is regulated by E1A during mitotic reactivation of terminally differentiated cells and is essential for S phase entry.” J Cell Biol. 2002 Jun 10;157(6)
  2. Citterio E, Papait R, Nicassio F, Vecchi M, Gomiero P, Mantovani R, Di Fiore PP, Bonapace IM. “Np95 is a histone-binding protein endowed with ubiquitin ligase activity.” Mol Cell Biol. 2004 Mar;24(6)
  3. Nicassio F, Bianchi F, Capra M, Vecchi M, Confalonieri S, Bianchi M, Pajalunga D, Crescenzi M, Bonapace IM, Di Fiore PP. “A cancer-specific transcriptional signature in human neoplasia.” J Clin Invest. 2005 Nov;115(11).
  4. Bianchi, F., Nuciforo, P., Vecchi, M., Bernard, L., Tizzoni, L., Marchetti, A., Buttitta, F., Nicassio, F., and Di Fiore, P.P. “Survival Prediction of Stage I Lung Adenocarcinomas by expression of 10 genes” J Clin Invest. 2007 Nov;117(11).
  5. Nicassio F, Corrado N, Vissers J, B. Areces L, Bergink S, Marteijn J, Geverts B, Houtsmuller A, Wim Vermeulen, Di Fiore PP,and Elisabetta Citterio “Human USP3 is a chromatin modifier required for S-phase progression and genome stability” E Curr Biol. 2007 Nov 20;17(22).
  6. Bianchi, F., Nicassio, F., and Di Fiore, P.P. “Unbiased vs. biased approaches to the identification of cancer signatures: the case of lung cancer.” Cell Cycle. 2008 Jan 14;7(6).
  7. Vissers JH and Nicassio F, van Lohuizen M, Di Fiore PP, Citterio E. “The many faces of ubiquitinated histone H2A: insights from the DUBs.” Cell Div. 2008 Apr 22;3:8.
  8. Monti L, Cinquetti R, Guffanti A, Nicassio F, Cremona M, Lavorgna G, Bianchi F, Vignati F, Cittaro D, Taramelli R and Acquati F. “In silico prediction and experimental validation of natural antisense transcripts in two cancer-associated regions of human chromosome 6.” Int Journal of Oncolology 2009 Apr;34(4):1099-108.
  9. Bianchi F and Nicassio F, Marzi M, Belloni E, Dall'olio V, Bernard L, Pelosi G, Maisonneuve P, Veronesi G, Di Fiore PP. “A serum circulating miRNA diagnostic test to identify asymptomatic high-risk individuals with early stage lung cancer.” EMBO Mol Med. 2011. 3:495-503.
  10. Bianchi F, Nicassio F, Veronesi G, di Fiore PP. “Circulating microRNAs: next-generation biomarkers for early lung cancer detection.” Ecancermedicalscience. 2012;6:246


2011 “Fondazione Umberto Veronesi” Research Grant Award (2012-2013) “Identification of circulating non-coding RNAs as biomarkers for tumor diagnosis by “next-generation sequencing”.

2010 “Istituto Regina Elena Award” for the best oral presentation at the 52th Annual Meeting of the Italian Cancer Society.