Boston Children's Researcher Spotlight:
Roberto Chiarle, MD, Principal Investigator in the Department of Pathology

In this monthly showcase, TIDO highlights an up and coming researcher within the Boston Children's community by asking questions about their inspirations and research. This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing Roberto Chiarle, MD, Principal Investigator in the Department of Pathology. Dr. Chiarle is interested in mechanisms and therapy of cancers

Roberto Chiarle, MD

Q: What drives you as a scientist?

Becoming a scientist has been my dream since I was a child. My interest grew from reading science magazines and attending science classes in high school. After I received my MD degree, my passion for science and my excitement for discovering new aspects of cell biology grew, particularly the mechanisms of tumor formation. I pursued pathology because I believe it is a medical specialty that is closely related to basic research, where the interconnections between the clinical and the microscopy worlds are magnified. By studying pathology, I developed an interest in understanding the mechanisms of cancer and trying to find a cancer cure.

Q: Who influenced you the most as a scientist?

Early in my career, I was influenced mostly by two Italian scientists, Salvador Luria and Renato Dulbecco, both of whom studied at the University of Torino in Italy, where I graduated college. Both won Nobel prizes for their studies conducted in the US. I was fascinated by their stories. During medical school and pathology training, I developed an interest in tumors of the hematopoietic system, including lymphomas and leukemias. My interest in studying these diseases grew by reading the works of several prominent scientists that made seminal blood related cancer molecular mechanism discoveries.

Q: What is unique about your research and what unmet medical needs does your research aim to solve?

My research is focused on chromosomal translocations as the mechanisms that drive several types of cancers, including lymphoma and lung carcinoma. One major project in my lab is dedicated to unraveling how translocations that involve the Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) gene are formed in different cancer types. Two major questions we are attempting to answer are how chromosomal translocations of this gene originate in cells and how, once formed, they have the capability to transform normal cells into tumors such as lymphoma and lung cancer. We have characterized several of these mechanisms and think that a global understanding of these steps in tumor formation is critical to finding a treatment for such cancers. To this end, we are exploiting the unique biology of the ALK oncogene and have developed an innovative therapeutic approach using a specific immunotherapy for tumors that express ALK as the main driving oncogene.

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