Luigi Laghi is group leader at Humanitas Research Hospital, in Milan, leading the Molecular Gastroenterology Lab, and associate professor of gastroenterology at the University of Parma.
Laghi has been a pioneer in the study of inherited colorectal cancer and underlying types of genomic instability, with focus on DNA mismatch repair defects and ensuing microsatellite instability (MSI). Contributing to introduce MSI in clinical practice, he defined its relevance as stage-dependent predictor of better survival due to the decreased likelihood of metastases. He established the density of tumor infiltrating immune cells as non-clonal biomarkers of disease progression in colorectal cancer, clarifying the relevance of lymphocytes and macrophages in stage II and III, respectively.
Looking for tumor biomarkers in the microenvironment of gastrointestinal cancers, he also traced non-canonical neoplastic cells exploiting epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) to invade the nearby tissues, acquiring a mesenchymal phenotype while sharing the genetic abnormalities of cancer cells. His work showed increased levels of mRNAs of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition factors in the blood of patients with colorectal and pancreatic cancer. A “liquid-biopsy” test, exploiting these increased levels is currently under development for the diagnosis of both types of cancer.