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Targeting circulating tumor cells to suppress cancer metastasis

We aim to develop a novel type of anti-cancer therapeutics, aimed at dissolving clusters of circulating tumor cells and suppress metastasis formation.

More than 90% of cancer-​related deaths are due to the development of a metastatic disease, corresponding to more than 7 million deaths each year worldwide. The Aceto lab is interested in understanding the fundamental molecular mechanisms that drive cancer and its metastatic progression, with a particular focus on the analysis of circulating tumor cells (CTCs). 

In our studies, we use a combination of molecular biology, next-​generation sequencing, computational biology, microfluidic and robotic technologies, patient samples, in vivo models, genetic engineering, CRISPR screens and drug screens to better understand the biology and vulnerabilities of aggressive cancers. For instance, we were among the first to discover that metastasis is accomplished by highly proliferative CTC clusters (aggregates of multiple CTCs circulating within the bloodstream). We also discovered an interplay between CTC clusters and immune cells of the host, leading to a further increase in their proliferative and metastatic ability. 

We are now working on the development of a new type of anti-cancer therapeutics, targeted to dissolve CTC clusters and prevent metastasis formation in various cancer types. 


Prof. Nicola Aceto is Professor of Molecular Oncology at the ETH Zurich and group leader of the Aceto lab. Together with his team as well as clinical collaborators, the Aceto lab aims to better understand some of the key properties and driving principles of the metastatic process in a number of aggressive cancers. The objective of this research is to identify new therapeutic agents that prevent metastasis formation.

The Aceto lab Prof. Nicola Aceto+41-44-633-4023nicola.aceto@biol.ethz.ch