Active in scientific research for more than 30 years, Professor Michael Lisanti began his education in medicine at New York University, US, graduating Magna Cum Laude in Chemistry and later acquiring MD and PhD degrees at Cornell University Medical College in Cell Biology and Genetics.
Between 1992 and 1996 he served as a Fellow at the Whitehead Institute at MIT before distinguished appointments at the Albert Einstein College of medicine , the Kimmel Centre, the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit, and as Professor of Cancer Biology at The University of Manchester, UK.
Other distinguished positions include:
- Chair of the Department of Medicine and Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University;
- Program in Molecular Biology and Genetics of Cancer Leader;
- Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Pathology; and
- Muriel Edith Rickman Chair of Breast Oncology.
Professor Federica Sotgia, Lisanti’s research partner and wife, obtained her postgraduate degree in Medical Genetics in 2001 from the University of Genoa, Italy, before acquiring a post-doctoral fellowship and the role of instructor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
In 2006 she became Assistant Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, US, and then Senior Lecturer in the Institute of medicine and Cancer Sciences at the University of Manchester.
Lisanti and Sotgia, both now researching at the University of Salford, UK, tapped into an unusual source of information to help them explore the use of medicine such as antibiotics as an anticancer therapy – their then 8-year-old daughter, who led them on a path that could have the potential to revolutionise cancer management and the development of new drugs.
“She said she would just use an antibiotic like when she had a sore throat,” Lisanti said.
This innocent statement inspired Lisanti and Sotgia to the discovery that mitochondria has an ancestor in bacteria: a relationship spanning 1.45 billion years when bacteria found its way into cells and, after a long period of evolution, became mitochondria.
In their successive experiments FDA-approved antibiotics like azithromycin and doxycycline eradicated cancer stem cells in eight cancer types examined:
- Breast cancer
- Ductal carcinoma
- Prostate cancer
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
Lisanti and Sotgia’s research has attracted interest from physician’s keen to test the discovery on their own patients, a number of whom have reported benefiting from the findings.
The discovery could not only reduce the cost and length of oncology drug development but also one day transform cancer into a manageable chronic disease – proof that the innocent ideas of children really can be revolutionary.