Radiotherapy is an essential and highly effective part of the treatment of many cancers, including paediatric and adult brain tumours. Irradiation of normal brain tissue is, however, unavoidable and can result in major impairment of neurocognitive functioning and reduced quality of life. Similar effects have also been seen after chemotherapy for brain, but also non-intracranial, tumours.
Lara Barazzuol’s group focuses on assessing the effect of radiation (and chemotherapy) on the brain and aims to achieve an improved biological and molecular understanding of cancer treatment-induced neurocognitive dysfunction.
Lara Barazzuol obtained her PhD in Radiation Biology in 2012 at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom under the supervision of Karen J Kirkby. She then held a 3-year postdoctoral position at the Genome Damage and Stability Centre, United Kingdom, in Professor Penny Jeggo’s laboratory, known for their world-leading research in DNA repair. This is where Lara developed her research interest of how the embryonic and adult brain respond to DNA damage. In September of 2016, Lara moved to the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) in the Netherlands to establish her own laboratory within the Department of Biomedical Sciences of Cells and Systems and the Department of Radiation Oncology.
Highlights from her career to date comprise several peer-reviewed articles and young investigator awards, including the 2012 Mercia Award in Medical Engineering, the 2015 British Institute of Radiology Nic McNally Award, the 2017 Adrian Begg Award and the 2017 Bas Mulder Award. Since 2016, Lara became a committee member of the British Association of Radiation Research. She is currently project leader on grants from ZonMW and KWF (Dutch Cancer Society).
When using radiotherapy in the treatment of primary and metastatic brain tumours, damage of normal brain tissue is an unavoidable side effect. This can severely compromise cancer patients’ quality of life by diminishing their neurocognitive function, especially in cases of childhood brain tumours. The underlying mechanisms are not fully understood and, at present, there is no effective treatment.
Lara Barazzuol’s lab, by using a combination of methodologies (ranging from brain organoids to in vivo imaging and behavioral tests), aims to understand the underlying biological and molecular mechanisms of radiotherapy-induced neurocognitive dysfunction; and, to elucidate the effect of genetic variation on the pattern and severity of neurocognitive outcome based on clinical data.
Another interest of Lara Barazzuol’s lab is investigating how defects in DNA repair impact on human health, with particular focus on neurodegenerative diseases, and understanding how this knowledge can be exploited in the clinic.
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